Covid-19 Update: Essential Resources on Immigrant Health

Updated October 13, 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

Akhtar, Allana. 2020. “Filipinos make up 4% of nurses in the US, but 31.5% of nurse deaths from COVID-19.” Business Insider, September 29.

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

Artiga, Samantha, Bradley Corallo, and Olivia Pham. 2020. “Racial Disparities in COVID-19: Key Findings from Available Data and Analysis.” Kaiser Family Foundation, August 17.

Bernstein, Hamutal, et al. 2020. “Immigrant-Serving Organizations’ Perspectives on the COVID-19 Crisis.” Urban Institute, August 27.

Brook, Lena, and Juanita Costible. 2020. “Treat Farmworkers as Essential, not Sacrificial.” National Resources Defense Council Expert Blog, September 14.

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

COVID Tracking Project and the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. 2020. The COVID Racial Data Tracker.

Gould, Elise, Daniel Perez, and Valerie Wilson. 2020. “Latinx Workers—Particularly Women—Face Devastating Job Losses in the COVID-19 Recession.” Economic Policy Institute, August 20.

Hendl, Tereza, Ryoa Chung, and Verina Wild. 2020. “Pandemic Surveillance and Racialized Subpopulations: Mitigating Vulnerabilities in COVID-19 Apps.” Journal of Bioethical Inquiry.

Immigrant Health and Cancer Disparities Center. 2020. “Coping with COVID Together,” (Program Description). Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Accessed August 20, 2020, at

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

Krogstad, Jens Manuel, and Mark Hugo Lopez. 2020. “Coronavirus Economic Downturn Has Hit Latinos Especially Hard.” Pew Research Center, August 4.

Lee, Caroline, Archana Podury, Jasmine Kaduthodil, and Leigh Graham. 2020. “Long-Term Care Facilities Must Prioritize Immigrant Workers’ Needs To Contain COVID-19.” Health Affairs Blog, September 18.

Lind, Dara, and Lomi Kriel. 2020. “ICE Is Making Sure Migrant Kids Don’t Have COVID-19 — Then Expelling Them to ‘Prevent the Spread’ of COVID-19.” ProPublica, August 10.

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

Shapiro, Joseph. 2020. “Undocumented With COVID-19: Many Face A Long Recovery, Largely On Their Own.” NPR, September 1.

Public charge and access to care

Barofsky, Jeremy, et al. 2020. “Spreading Fear: The Announcement Of The Public Charge Rule Reduced Enrollment In Child Safety-Net Programs.” Health Affairs, October.

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

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

Lessard, Gabrielle. 2020. “Public Charge: Five Things to Know Now.” The Torch (Blog of the National Immigration Law Center), August 31 (updated September 22, 2020).

National Immigration Law Center. 2020. “State and Local Immigrants’ Rights Developments, December 2019–August 2020.” September.

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.

Passel, Jeffrey S., and D’Vera Cohn. 2020. “Removing Unauthorized Immigrants from Census Could Change Apportionment in House.” Pew Research Center, July 24.

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, September 18.

Chotiner, Isaac. 2020. “The Troubling State of Medical Care in ICE Detention.” New Yorker, September 25.

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.

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.

Zallman, Leah, et al. 2019. “Care for America’s Elderly and Disabled People Relies on Immigrant Labor.” Health Affairs 38(6), June.

Migration and metropolitan areas in the United States

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

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, March 11.

Undocumented immigrants: federal taxes, private insurance, and contributions to medicare and social security

Campbell, Alexia. 2016. “The Truth About Undocumented Immigrants and Taxes.” The Atlantic, September 12.

Flavin, Lila, Leah Zallman, Danny McCormick, and Wesley J. Boyd. 2018. “Medical Expenditures on and by Immigrant Populations in the United States: A Systematic Review.” International Journal of Health Services 48(4), 601-21.

Hallman, Hunter. 2018. “How do Undocumented Immigrants Pay Federal Taxes? An Explainer.” Bipartisan Policy Center, March 28.

Zallman, Leah, et al. 2018. “Medical Expenditures on and by Immigrant Populations in the United States: A Systematic Review.” Journal of General Internal Medicine 31(1), 122-27.

Zallman, Leah, et al. 2013. “Immigrants Contributed an Estimated $115.2 Billion More to the Medicare Trust Fund Than They Took Out in 2002-09.” Health Affairs 32(6), 1153-60.

Zallman, Leah, et al. 2018. “Immigrants Pay More in Private Insurance Premiums than They Receive in Benefits,” Health Affairs 37(10), 1663-68.

Climate migration

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

Lustgarten, Adam. 2020. “Climate Change Will Force a New American Migration.” ProPublica/New York Times Magazine, September 15.


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.