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Covid-19 Update: Essential Resources on Immigrant Health

Updated August 3, 2020

The novel coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the vulnerabilities of low-wage immigrants to viral infection and severe Covid-19 illness. This public health emergency compounds the social (non-medical) determinants of health associated with immigrant status and with immigration policy priorities.

For undocumented immigrants, exclusion from federally funded insurance programs and fear of encounters that could lead to detention, deportation, or family separation immigration enforcement create barriers to health care access. For legally present immigrants, the chilling effects of the public charge rule, which jeopardizes eligibility for legal permanent residency (green card) if applicants are deemed “public charges” based on even short-term use of federally funded programs, create barriers to health care access and to use of health-related services such as health insurance, housing subsidies, or food stamps. These barriers have consequences for citizen children in mixed-status families.

The Hastings Center’s Undocumented Patients project, founded in 2011, maintains a public database of key literature and other resources on health care access for undocumented immigrants and other immigrant populations in the U.S. What follows is a selected bibliography designed to support learning and progress on immigrant health in a complex policy environment, with a new section reflecting Covid-19 data, reporting, and policy analysis.

COVID-19: impact on immigrant workers and communities

Altan, Daffodil, Andres Cediel, and Maria Jose Calderon. 2020. COVID’s Hidden Toll. PBS Frontline, no. 8.

Artiga, Samantha, Rachel Garfield, and Kendal Orgera. “Communities of Color at Higher Risk for Health and Economic Challenges Due to COVID-19.” Kaiser Family Foundation, April 7, 2020.

Capps, Kriston. “Why So Many Immigrant Families Avoid Getting Help.” CityLab, May 20, 2020.

Center for an Urban Future. “Under Threat & Left Out: NYC’s Immigrants and the Coronavirus Crisis.” June, 2020.

Chishti, Muzaffar, and Sarah Pierce. “Crisis within a Crisis: Immigration in the United States in a Time of COVID-19.” Migration Policy Institute, March 26, 2020.

COVID Tracking Project and the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. The COVID Racial Data Tracker.

Duncan, Whitney L., and Sarah B. Horton. “Serious Challenges and Potential Solutions for Immigrant Health During COVID-19.” Health Affairs Blog, April 18, 2020.

Gallardo, Adriana, and Ariel Goodman. “Los New Yorkers: Essential and Underprotected in the Pandemic’s Epicenter.” ProPublica, May 2, 2020.

Gelatt, Julia. “Immigrant Workers: Vital to the U.S. COVID-19 Response, Disproportionately Vulnerable.” Migration Policy Institute, March 2020.

Goodman, Peter. “They Crossed Oceans to Lift Their Families Out of Poverty. Now, They Need Help.” New York Times, July 27, 2020.

Kreiger, Nancy, Gregg Gonsalves, Mary T. Bassett, William Hanage, and Harlan M. Krumholz. “The Fierce Urgency Of Now: Closing Glaring Gaps In US Surveillance Data On COVID-19.” Health Affairs Blog, April 14, 2020.

Krogstad, Jens Manuel, and Mark Hugo Lopez. “Americans favor medical care but not economic aid for undocumented immigrants affected by COVID-19.” Pew Research Center, May 20, 2020.

Krogstad, Jens Manuel, Ana Gonzalez-Barrera, and Luis Noe-Bustamante. “U.S. Latinos among Hardest Hit by Pay Cuts, Job Losses Due to Coronavirus.” Pew Research Center, April 3, 2020.

Make the Road New York. “Excluded in the Epicenter: Impacts of the COVID Crisis on Working-Class Immigrant, Black, and Brown New Yorkers.” May, 2020.

McFarling, Usha Lee. “San Francisco Testing Blitz Shows Covid-19 Hit Mostly Low-Wage Workers.” STAT, May 28, 2020.

McFarling, Usha Lee. “‘We’ll Be Deported’: Immigrants Fear Seeking Covid-19 Tests or Care.” STAT, April 15, 2020.

Narea, Nicole. “The Coronavirus Stimulus Bill’s Missing Piece: Relief for Immigrants.” Vox, April 1, 2020.

National Immigration Law Center.  “Equal Opportunities to Thrive: Rebates, Taxes/SSN/ITIN, Food Security, and Access to Food Programs.” April 16, 2020.

National Immigration Law Center. “Workers’ Rights: Critical Labor Protections for Immigrant Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” April 15, 2020.

National Immigration Law Center. “Safe and Accessible: Immigrants’ Access to Health Care, Public Charge, and Safe Spaces in Health Care Centers.” April 14, 2020.

Ross, Jonathan, Chanelle M. Diaz, and Joanna L. Starrels. “The Disproportionate Burden of COVID-19 for Immigrants in the Bronx, New York.” JAMA Internal Medicine, May 2020.

Siegel, Jeremy, Helena Bottemiller Evich, Irene Noguchi, and Jenny Ament. 2020. “Coronavirus: A Crisis for Farmworkers.” Politico Dispatch (Podcast), May 11, 2020.

Spievack, Natalie, Jorge González, and Steven Brown. 2020. “Latinx Unemployment Is Highest of All Racial and Ethnic Groups for the First Time on Record.” Urban Wire (Blog), May 8, 2020.

Taladrid, Stephania. “The Risks Undocumented Workers Are Facing During the Covid-19 Pandemic.” The New Yorker, April 13, 2020.

Public charge: health consequences

Artiga, Samantha, Rachel Garfield, and Anthony Damico. “Estimated Impacts of Final Public Charge Inadmissibility Rule on Immigrants and Medicaid Coverage.” Kaiser Family Foundation, September 18, 2019.

Bernstein, Hamutal, Dulce Gonzalez, Sara McTarnaghan, Michael Karpman, and Stephen Zuckerman. “One in Six Adults in California Immigrant Families Reported Avoiding Public Benefits in 2019.” Urban Institute, May 18, 2020.

Bernstein, Hamutal, Dulce Gonzalez, Michael Karpman, and Stephen Zuckerman. “Amid Confusion over the Public Charge Rule, Immigrant Families Continued Avoiding Public Benefits in 2019.” Urban Institute, May 18, 2020.

Gelatt, Julia, and Mark Greenburg. “Health Insurance Test for Green-Card Applicants Could Sharply Cut Future U.S. Legal Immigration.” Migration Policy Institute, October 2019.

Katz, Mitchell H., and Dave A. Chokshi. 2018. “The ‘Public Charge’ Proposal and Public Health.” JAMA 320 (20): 2075.

Page, Kathleen R., and Sarah Polk. 2017. “Chilling Effect? Post-Election Health Care Use by Undocumented and Mixed-Status Families.” New England Journal of Medicine 376 (12): e20.

Parmet, Wendy E. 2020. “Supreme Court Allows Public Charge Rule To Take Effect While Appeals Continue.” Health Affairs Blog, February 3, 2020.

Sommers, Benjamin, et al. 2020. “Assessment of Perceptions of the Public Charge Rule Among Low-Income Adults in Texas.” JAMA Network Open, 3(7):e2010391.

Zallman, Leah, and Karen Finnegan. 2018. “Changing Public Charge Immigration Rules: The Potential Impact on Children Who Need Care.” California Health Care Foundation.

Zallman, Leah, Karen E. Finnegan, David U. Himmelstein, Sharon Touw, and Steffie Woolhandler. 2019. “Implications of Changing Public Charge Immigration Rules for Children Who Need Medical Care.” JAMA Pediatrics, July, e191744.

Immigration enforcement: health consequences

Artiga, Samantha, and Barbara Lyons. 2018. “Family Consequences of Detention/Deportation: Effects on Finances, Health, and Well-Being.” Kaiser Family Foundation.

Crosby, Sondra, and George Annas. 2020. “Border Babies — Medical Ethics and Human Rights in Immigrant Detention Centers.” New England Journal of Medicine 383 (4): 297-9.

Hanna-Attisha, Mona. “America’s Racist War on Children.” Morning Consult (Blog), July 15, 2020.

McKenzie, Katherine C. 2019. “Loud, Gray, and Arbitrary — The Compounding Trauma of Detention for Asylum Seekers.” New England Journal of Medicine 380 (9): 807–9.

Spiegel, Paul, Nancy Kass, and Leonard Rubenstein. 2019. “Can Physicians Work in US Immigration Detention Facilities While Upholding Their Hippocratic Oath?” JAMA, August.

Stoughton, Sarah, and Kathryn Hampton. 2019. “Not in My Exam Room: How U.S. Immigration Enforcement Is Obstructing Medical Care.” Physicians for Human Rights.

Migration and metropolitan areas in the United States

FrameWorks Institute. Integrating Issues: Framing for Racial Equity and Children in Immigrant Families. November 14, 2017.

Kalor, Yair, Mel Meder, Satya Rhodes-Conway, and Mariah Young-Jones. 2018. “Building Immigrant-friendly Cities.” Mayors Innovation Project.

Passel, Jeffrey S., and D’Vera Cohn. 2019. “Twenty Metro Areas Are Home to Six-in-Ten Unauthorized Immigrants in U.S.” Pew Research Center.

Climate migration

Lustgarten, Adam. “Where Will Everyone Go?” ProPublica/New York Times, July 23, 2020.


For more resources, visit The Hastings Center’s Undocumented Patients public database.

This resource was developed by Ben Curran Wills, a project manager/research assistant at The Hastings Center, and Nancy Berlinger, a research scholar at The Hastings Center and the cofounder of the Center’s Undocumented Patients project.

The Hastings Center has never shied away from the toughest ethical challenges faced by society.


The Hastings Center has never shied away from the toughest ethical challenges faced by society.