weekly blog--one for the ages
Providing care for older people has become the classic example of a job native-born Americans would rather not take. It’s physically demanding work that pays poorly. The median wage for home care workers was $10.49 an hour in 2016 and usually doesn’t include benefits, according to a NY-based research organization. The aides, who are mostly women, frequently qualify for federal programs like food stamps or Medicaid.
The research firm estimates that one in four of the direct-care workers in U.S. nursing homes, assisted living facilities and home care agencies are foreign-born. In the so-called gray market, where consumers hire home care workers directly and often pay them under the table, the proportion is likely far higher.
The number of immigrants in direct care ballooned from 520,000 in 2005 to approximately one million in 2015, including those who work independently through state home care programs. In New York, California, New Jersey and Florida, more than 40 percent of direct-care workers are immigrants, and nationwide, nearly 35,000 come from Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras, whose immigrants have had temporary protected status in the United States.
The Trump administration recently terminated temporary work status for Haitians, Salvadorans and Nicaraguans. Also, temporary work status was terminated for immigrants from Sudan who will have to leave the United States as early as this fall. Another nearly 11,000 direct care workers come from largely Muslim countries affected by the Trump travel ban and might leave if family members can never join them. An unknown number of workers are DACA recipients who might eventually be forced to leave. Even when workers are legal residents they may consider moving when relatives are deported.
Eventually, especially in rural areas where home care workers have to travel long distances to clients, older adults along with younger ones with disabilities, may not be able to hire people who can help them remain in their homes. In cities and suburbs, older immigrants who want assistance from those who speak their native language could be similarly at a loss.