Most Americans Believe Undocumented Immigrants Should Get Medical Care During Pandemic: Poll

Most Americans believe the federal government has a responsibility to provide undocumented residents affected by the coronavirus outbreak with medical care, a new study from the Pew Research Center has found.

Of 10,975 adults surveyed between April 29 to May 5, around two-thirds of U.S. adults (68 percent) said they believed the government should be providing undocumented immigrants with access to medical care amid the pandemic.

However, while most Americans were in favor of extending medical support to undocumented immigrants, the idea of providing financial support to undocumented families was less popular.

Asked whether the government should be offering economic assistance to undocumented immigrants who have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 outbreak, only 37 percent of people surveyed said yes.

The lack of support for providing financial assistance to undocumented residents comes after undocumented workers were excluded from receiving relief funds in the government's March $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package.

Families where only one partner was undocumented, as well as families with U.S.-born children, were also among those excluded from receiving relief cheques of up to $1,200 per taxpayer, with an additional $500 per child under the age of 17.

Responses to both questions in the Pew Research Center poll varied widely based on race and ethnicity, partisan identification and a number of other characteristics, researchers found.

Compared with black and Hispanic adults, researchers found white participants to be significantly less in favor of providing either medical or financial support to undocumented immigrants.

The vast majority of Hispanic participants (86 percent) expressed a belief that the government has a responsibility to ensure undocumented immigrants can access medical support amid the pandemic.

Meanwhile, around six in ten (62 percent) said they also believed the government should be providing economic support to undocumented residents.

Hispanic immigrants were more likely than U.S.-born Hispanics (68 percent vs. 55 percent) to be in support of government financial assistance for undocumented immigrants.

The disparity between groups narrowed, however, on the issue of medical care, with 88 percent of Hispanic immigrants in favor of providing medical support, compared to 83 percent of U.S.-born Hispanics who felt the same way.

A majority of black adults in the U.S. (80 percent) also shared the view that the U.S. government should be ensuring undocumented residents can access medical support. Meanwhile, just over half (55 percent) said they were in favor of economic support.

Among white adults, 61 percent said they believed the government should provide medical care to undocumented immigrants, while far less (27 percent) said they believed the U.S. should be providing economic relief to undocumented workers affected by the coronavirus crisis.

Divisions along party lines were also apparent, with the vast majority of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (85 percent) saying the government should provide medical care to undocumented immigrants, compared with about half of Republicans and Republican leaners (47 percent.)

Meanwhile, more than half of Democrats (56 percent) said the government should be providing economic support to undocumented workers, while just 14 percent of Republicans agreed.

The disparities in opinions observed in the study "reflect patterns that we've seen in other surveys, even before COVID-19," Mark Lopez, one of the researchers behind the report, told Newsweek.

Traditionally, he said, "black and Hispanic [people surveyed] tend to be more supportive of immigration policies that might help undocumented immigrants."

Meanwhile, politician divisions were also not particularly surprising, he said, given that Democrats are typically considered to be more in favor of measures supporting undocumented residents in the U.S. than Republicans.

"This is part of a broader story about how the American public sees policies that might impact undocumented immigrants," he said.

According to Pew, a little over a tenth (7.6 million) of the U.S.'s 60 million Latinos are living undocumented or "unauthorized" in the U.S.

Despite their status, many undocumented immigrants living in the country are currently working amid the pandemic, while others have lost their jobs due to the outbreak.

Undocumented immigrants across the country also pay taxes in the U.S., with many using Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) as they cannot obtain social security numbers. Despite that, undocumented taxpayers were barred from receiving relief funds from the government's March stimulus package, which required beneficiaries to have a social security number.

Medical care
A COVID-19 patient and asylum seeker is comforted by her husband on April 25, 2020 in Stamford, Connecticut. A new study has found that most Americans believe it is the U.S. government's responsibility to provide medical support to undocumented immigrants in the country. John Moore/Getty

Editor's Picks

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts