Three in Four Americans Believe Undocumented Workers Fill Unwanted Jobs

A farmworker covers his face as he works at a flower farm in Santa Paula, Calif., on April 15. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

(CN) — A new survey released Wednesday found that three-quarters of Americans believe that undocumented immigrants mostly fill jobs that U.S. citizens don’t want.

The survey by the Pew Research Center polled nearly 11,000 adults in late April and early May, asking Americans whether they believed that legal and undocumented immigrants hold jobs that U.S. citizens would like to have.

Among those polled, 64% said that legal immigrants mostly fill jobs that U.S. citizens do not want, and 77% said that undocumented immigrants work in jobs that citizens would not want to have.

Unauthorized immigrants accounted for nearly 5% of the U.S. workforce in 2017, the most recent year for which Pew had estimates on immigrant numbers available, while legal immigrants accounted for nearly 13% of workers.

Immigrants accounted for more than a quarter of workers in the agriculture sector, the highest of any industry. Compared with their share of the U.S. workforce, a relatively high share of unauthorized immigrants also worked in industries such as construction, leisure and hospitality, personal and other services and manufacturing.

When it comes to views on the jobs that immigrants hold in the U.S., there is a notable difference along political party lines. The vast majority of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (87%) say that undocumented immigrants mostly fill jobs U.S. citizens do not want, compared with 66% of Republicans and Republican-leaners.

Hispanics are most likely to say undocumented immigrants mostly fill jobs U.S. citizens do not want, with 94% of Hispanic immigrants and 82% of U.S.-born Hispanics agreeing with the statement. By comparison, 75% of white and 71% of black adults say the same.

Many undocumented immigrants work in industries that are at risk for job loss during the current Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak because they are difficult to perform remotely. In all, 83% of undocumented immigrant workers held such jobs in 2017, including those in the service sector and construction.

By comparison, 62% of U.S. workers overall held these types of jobs. Much of the difference between these groups is due to undocumented immigrants’ jobs being more difficult to telework, even if the job is in an industry, like education and health, where large shares can work remotely.

Further, many immigrants living legally in the U.S. hold jobs deemed essential by the federal government, including an estimated 2.7 million who worked in the health care sector, or nearly 15% of all health care workers as of 2017.

A Pew survey released in early May found that about two-thirds of U.S. adults believe that the federal government has a responsibility to provide medical care to undocumented immigrants who are ill with the coronavirus, even as only 37% say the government should offer economic help to undocumented immigrants who have lost their job due to the outbreak.

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