COVID-19, J1 Visa Holders and Other Precarious Migrants
In a March 30, 2020, the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies detailed the negative impacts COVID-19 has for undocumented Filipino and other populations. In this report, we examine the situation of Filipinos who may have legal status, but whose status may be threatened or precarious, especially in light of recent news media reports indicating that migrants on temporary employment visas like the H1B, which brings in health care professionals from abroad, fear deportation. According to the report, doctors or nurses (and their family members) who are in the United States on H1B visas and are frontliners in the COVID-19 fight face the prospect of deportation should they lose their jobs as a consequence of illness. H1B visa-holders are “tied to their employment. If those visa holders become incapacitated or disabled for any reason and are unable to work, they and any family members on H-4 dependent visas will become subject to deportation. If a H-1B visa holder dies, any H-4 dependent family members become undocumented and instantly subject to removal.” Not only do migrant Filipinos face similar prospects as the undocumented should they lose their legal status, but they also confront other challenges that make them vulnerable in distinctive ways including tremendous economic insecurity and extreme social isolation.