As the COVID-19 vaccine makes its way throughout the United States, immigration activists and lawmakers are rallying to ensure that the 11 million undocumented immigrants at the heart of the nation’s food production and service industry sectors are not left out.
Experts say it is unlikely that health officials will discriminate against undocumented Americans. But after years of isolationist and punitive immigration policies from the Trump administration, many immigrants – whose physical and fiscal health has, along with many people of color, been disproportionately hurt by the pandemic – might be unwilling to come forward and get vaccinated.
In July, Beatriz Gutierrez’s entire family – including her four children, ages 9 to 17, and her partner, who is a landscaper – caught COVID-19. While none were hospitalized, the illness resulted in her partner losing his job and bills piling up.
Though the disease creates natural immunity, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people who have had COVID-19 “may be advised” to get the vaccine because of the severe health risks associated with the virus and the possibility of reinfection.
“We don’t want to take the risk if it’s going to cause us problems,” such as deportation, says Gutierrez, 36, a stay-at-home mother in Phoenix. “But otherwise, I am ready to take it.”