Democrats Promise Many Work Permits for DACA Medical Workers in Coronavirus Crash

Swedish Medical Center health care workers look on as first responders gathered outside the hospital in support of them in their work against the coronavirus outbreak Thursday, April 16, 2020, in Seattle. First responders across King County planned to stand outside of 15 hospitals in a show of appreciation for …
Elaine Thompson/AP Photo

Democrats will demand work permits for hundreds of thousands of non-immigrant foreign workers in the next coronavirus rescue bill, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday.

“What corona has made clear is how vital our TPS recipients are, or DACA recipients are, to continuing health care in America,” Schumer said in a press briefing promoted by America’s Voice Education Fund and the advocacy group for West Coast investors. The New York senator continued:

[If] you go to New York, any New York healthcare institution, and a high percentage of the people are immigrants, many of whom are TPS and DACA recipients. … It’s obviously an awful crisis, but I think it’s shown America how much we need these folks as they help us fight the crisis, and I think that should help us with new support as we push for this in [the draft] COVID Four [rescue bill].

Schumer’s comments conflated legal immigrants with temporary workers and illegal migrants. For example, “TPS” are foreign migrants — including many illegal aliens — who were given “Temporary Protected Status” because of crises in their homelands, sometimes decades ago.

“DACA” refers to President Barack Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which blocked deportations and also gave work permits to roughly 800,000 younger illegal aliens.

President Donald Trump has begun to shrink the huge TPS program and has ordered an end to the DACA program. Both programs are being shielded temporarily by lawsuits. Trump has repeatedly suggested he would back both programs if the Democrats would support his immigration reform plans.

“We’re joining forces to demand that the Trump administration extend the work authorization for the over 130,000 TPS holders and 200,000 back DACA recipients, many of whom are serving on the frontlines in the battle against COVID-19,” Schumer said.

Schumer’s promise will likely fail. New polls show that Americans want strong curbs on migration during the epidemic. Public hostility blocked Democrat efforts in April to extended work permits for hundreds of thousands of foreign workers in the United States — even though the public wants more doctors.

President Trump has also directed his deputies to develop rules by the end of May that would protect Americans’ jobs from companies’ hiring of visa workers during the crisis. However, he also directed his deputies to preserve the continued legal inflow of foreign doctors via the J-1 visa program and of foreign nurses via the green card process.

Also, the Supreme Court may shortly strike down the DACA program, likely forcing Democrats to trade concessions to keep the DACA migrants in the United States. That trade is supported by some immigration reforms, in part, because the DACA migrants have spent nearly all of their lives in the United States.

But Schumer declined to offer any trade to Americans in exchange for adding hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants into Americans’ job market, even though millions of Americans are losing their jobs during the crash.

Even before the crash, many Americans — including college graduates — have seen their salaries stall and their housing costs rise because the government inflates the labor supply each year by inviting more than one million legal immigrants and visa workers to compete for jobs and housing.

In contrast, business-funded advocacy groups say the federal government should welcome more foreign healthcare workers during and after the coronavirus crash.

The Democrats’ tally of migrant healthcare workers includes many migrants who are holding jobs — such as home healthcare aides — that would be filled by hiring unemployed Americans at decent wages.

Throughout the Tuesday press conference, Schumer, as well as Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), repeatedly praised legal immigrants and illegal migrants, often while downplaying Americans’ role in combating China’s virus:

Anytime you go to a hospital [or] you go to a clinic and [you will see] such a high percentage of hard-working, dedicated, talented immigrants in our healthcare system, every day. These DACA — DACA and TPS — recipients put themselves in danger, they risked their family’s health to keep the rest of us safe. So now is the time, more than ever, that we need to stand with them and protect them during these awful times, whenever they need our support. Unfortunately, President Trump is doing what he always does — he uses immigrants as scapegoats. I find it despicable — the only word I can use.

That “President Trump is trying to turn the American people against these immigrants and newcomers to this nation is just unspeakable, said Durbin, adding:

It reflects a whole heart and a hateful mind — two things we definitely do not need in America. When we return next week, we’re going to have a chance to take the floor of the Senate for the first time in weeks … Many of us [Democrats] will be coming to the floor and asking our colleagues to join us to salute the healthcare heroes across America.

“These frontline workers, and certainly all of the incredible healthcare workers, and all the emergency technicians, ambulance corps worker, all of these people are doing incredible valiant work,” Menendez said, adding:

But these frontline workers — [both] Dreamers and TPS — are also risking their lives every day. And we have to respect their work by protecting them from deportation.

Like so many Americans, these dreamers and TPS holders are risking their lives every day in the fight against COVID-19. They’re caring for the sick. Working double shifts … and often doing so without the personal protective gear they need. Regardless of their place of birth, these individuals, undoubtedly represent the best of America.

Despite the Democrats’ promotion of the DACA and TPS migrants, the two groups comprise a minimal slice of the nation’s healthcare workforce.

“DACA recipients simply do not comprise a large share of workers, and that is certainly true in a huge sector of the economy like health care,” says an April 7 study by the Center for Immigration Studies. The  DACA healthcare workers “translates to just 0.2% of the nation’s 14.5 million health care workers,” Director of Research Steve Camarota wrote.

He continued:

Probably the two occupations that seem the most relevant to combating the Wuhan Virus are registered nurses and health technologists and technicians, which includes licensed practical nurses and jobs like pharmacy technicians. The ACS shows that there are 3.3 million registered nurses working in the country and 3 million technologists and technicians, making DACA recipients just 0.1% and 0.2% of these occupations respectively. Again, even assuming CAP’s estimates are correct, DACA recipients in the most relevant occupations are a miniscule share of workers.

Moreover, the DACA migrants are far outnumbered by non-working Amerian healthcare professionals — including legal immigrants — who can be recruited for an emergency, especially if employers offer them a bonus because of the health risk, he said:

The Census data also shows there were 41,000 unemployed registered nurses and 67,000 unemployment technicians in 2018. In addition, there were 860,000 nurses and technicians who are out of the labor force entirely, but who reported having worked in these fields in the prior five years. So there is a huge pool of people who can be drawn upon if a few thousand DACA nurses and technicians were deported.

Even without much training, many laid-off Americans and legal immigrants can be hired to perform the jobs held by most of the DACA immigrants, Camarota added:

Their estimates also show that nearly one third of the DACA workers they identify are home health and personal care aides and related occupations. The Bureau of Labor Statics reports that becoming a health care aid requires only a high school education and sometimes not even that. Moreover, at a time when unemployment is increasing massively among the less-educated, replacing a few thousand health care aids, whose primary responsibility is typically helping the elderly or disabled dress and bath, hardly seems difficult, if it came to that.

Many additional American healthcare workers are retired or switched careers and are available during a crisis, he added.

Follow Neil Munro on Twitter @NeilMunroDC, or email the author at


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