Fact Check – FALSE: New Study Claims 69 Percent of Illegal Aliens are Working in COVID Essential Jobs

The open borders advocacy group, FWD.us, published a report on December 16 which estimates that 69 percent of illegal aliens present in the United States hold essential jobs during the COVID pandemic. This conclusion is largely inaccurate and takes many liberties which lead to deceptive conclusions.

First, it is important to note their flawed operational definitions which have a great impact on the interpretation of the report. Most Americans, when they hear “essential’ and ‘frontline’ workers, tend to think of people providing vital healthcare amid the pandemic. However, according to FWD.us’s report, illegal aliens make up a mere 2 percent of healthcare workers in the United States.

Their definition of essential takes a very broad approach that not only includes those positions deemed essential by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), but also classifies anyone that does not have the ability to work from home as a ‘frontline’ worker. This would include everyone who works at a supermarket, restaurant, or even a fast-food drive through window. In fact, by this definition, about 79 percent of the U.S. workforce would be considered essential.

Second, they paint a very rosy picture of the illegal alien population. One that, upon further research into the actual educational attainment and economic contributions of illegal aliens, is quite contradictory to reality. The report claims that 60 percent of illegal aliens in essential jobs speak English well, very well or speak English only. This is data is obtained through the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) and is based on self-assessment. When comparing self-assessment to practical literacy, however, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) found that 41 percent of immigrants score at or below the lowest level of English literacy. They also found that a significant length of time in the U.S. has little effect on English literacy for immigrants.

The report claims that illegal essential workers had an estimated $144 billion of disposable income after the payment of up to $48 billion in federal, state and local taxes. However, FAIR found that the average illegal alien only pays about $285 in state taxes each year, for a combined $3.5 billion in state and local taxes nationally. By FAIR’s estimates, the total tax revenue paid by illegal aliens is about $19 billion annually. A drop in the bucket compared to the $134.9 billion total annual economic impact of illegal migration on United States’ taxpayers.

The report also claims that 61 percent of illegal aliens earn incomes that are two times above the poverty line and 40 percent own a home. By contrast, FAIR found that the average household with an illegal alien as the head earns approximately $36,000 annually and are classified as “low income.” However, 35 percent of illegal aliens operate in the underground economy and earn far less. For example, the average income of unlawful farm worker’s annual income is $5,600 less than authorized workers in the same field.

Finally, they claim that the “unique and essential work skills” of non-citizen immigrants and illegal aliens are vital to the COVID-19 economic recovery. In a 2018 follow-up study by Roberto Gonzales, only 12.5 percent of DACA recipients surveyed earned a degree from a four-year college, compared to 29.6 percent of Americans in same age range. The fact of the matter is that the picture that FWD.us is painting of illegal aliens in full medical gowns combating COVID-19 is simply not accurate.

The FWD.us report, like many of its kind, is also predicated on the false premise that if illegal aliens were not present, the jobs they do would go unfilled and the revenues their work generates could not be replicated. As we have all been told at one point or another, nobody is irreplaceable. That truism is applicable to illegal aliens as much as to the rest of us. With rare exceptions, the “essential” and “frontline” jobs being performed by illegal aliens could and would be filled by legal workers — especially at a time of high unemployment.