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‘Immigrants Like Me are the Invisible Force Behind the Workforce’: Recognizing the Contributions of Immigrant Women During International Women’s Month

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Maria Barahona, an SEIU Local 2015 member and home care provider, is celebrating International Women’s Month by highlighting the significant contributions that immigrant women like herself make to the economy.

“Immigrants like me are the invisible force behind the workforce, enabling others to go to work and keep our economy moving forward,” she writes in Newsweek. “That includes 11 million undocumented people in the U.S who add to the tax base, contribute to Social Security, and fuel billions of dollars of economic growth each year.” The home care provider industry is dominated by immigrant women and women of color, Barahona continued. “Yet, historically, our contributions have been undervalued and overlooked.”

During National Caregivers Day last month, we noted the importance and contributions of immigrant caregivers. Not only do they provide critical services and companionship to our loved ones, but they also play an “outsized role” in caring for seniors and people with disabilities, Immigration Impact noted in 2023.

“In 2019, 36.5% of all home health aides in the United States were immigrants, a rate that was twice their share of the U.S. workforce overall (17.1%),” wrote researcher Karen Aho. “This includes undocumented workers, who made up an estimated 6.9% of home health aides and 4.4% of personal care aides.” 

Barahona writes that she’s a home care provider for two senior citizens, “one battling dementia and another who is a disabled U.S. veteran. These individuals have dedicated their lives to their families, their communities, and their country, and it’s my job to make sure they receive the dignified care they deserve.” As a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holder, she’s also part of a nationwide community that makes massive contributions to the economy and fills vital roles in homes.

“People currently with and who are eligible for TPS contribute nearly $31 billion annually to the U.S. economy, and the immigrant workforce as a whole is injecting trillions of dollars more,” she wrote. “A new analysis from the Economic Policy Institute showed that between January of 2023 and 2024, foreign-born workers drove a staggering 50 percent of U.S. labor market growth. According to the Congressional Budget Office, ‘GDP will be greater by about $7 trillion’ over the next decade thanks to new immigrants.”

Numerous voices have also been highlighting the importance of these workers to our economy and noting that the benefits of immigration to the U.S. economy extend well beyond simply the benefits to immigrants. 

“We do not have to wait for the future to see how immigrants are strengthening the U.S. economy,” stated one letter to the editor published by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “In 2021 immigrants paid $525 billion in taxes, money that helps support our nation’s schools, Medicaid and Social Security programs. Immigrants support our communities as consumers and taxpayers.” 

Women of color are also natural-born entrepreneurs. In Minnesota, Minnesota Public Radio reported last year that a group of Black immigrant women has been working to resurrect a half-empty strip mall in Brooklyn Center. The region is home to a large Black immigrant population that has been critical to the “economic life of suburbs, including Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park.”

“The world will be able to see us more, not by the color of our skin, to know that we are business leaders, strong business women with a lot of energy, who really want to do more,” said Jannie Seibure, a Liberian immigrant and owner of Cavalla Travel & Tours. “So, it’s kind of exciting for us.” Latinas are also natural businesswomen, launching businesses at triple the national rate, Latino Rebels noted in 2016. “In fact, Latina-owned businesses created 550,400 jobs and contributed over $97 billion in revenues to the U.S. economy in 2015.” 

“Today, my family is ingrained in our community,” Barahona continued at Newsweek. “Two of my children are TPS holders and the other is a U.S. citizen who is ready to vote in the 2024 election. I am proud to care for seniors and people with disabilities, and I don’t do it just for a paycheck—my job is a calling.” 

Barahona said that while many immigrants are willing and ready to fill vacant caregiving roles, our nation’s “severely outdated immigration laws” are stopping them.

“One solution for hundreds of thousands of workers is TPS, which will not only transform the lives of individuals and their families by keeping families together, protected, and safe, but can also provide a path so workers already here can work without the fear of deportation,” Barahona continued. The Biden administration announced several TPS redesignations last year, including Afghanistan and Venezuela in September and Cameroon in October. 

“International Women’s Day is an appropriate time to take stock of the many ways in which immigrant women contribute to the labor force of the United States,” Immigration Impact’s Walter Ewing wrote in 2017. “Some of these contributions are often overlooked, but all of the work that immigrant women do adds value to the economy—and to U.S. society as well.”