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Leidy, Andres and Carolina Jimenez pose because that a portrait in bike Repairman Corp., their save in Astoria, Queens. Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY
Leidy Jimenez and also her household are a classic new York City success story — and a portrait that COVID’s toll on immigrant at a time when fewer are investing their hopes in the five boroughs.

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She ran a cycle shop in Astoria through her “perfect team” — her sister and also parents — for almost two decades. Jimenez’s parental left Bogota, Colombia, for new York City in 1990, and also later carried the rest of the family members over.

Now, Jimenez is a homeowner with two children.

The perfect team, however, lost a member last April to COVID-19: Jimenez’s mother, Beatriz Soler. “She was so healthy. Us didn’t see it coming,” said Jimenez. Her mother was 62.


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Beatriz Soler. Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY
The staying three job-related harder than prior to even despite they can not sell many bikes as result of lack of inventory and also are surviving on repair services.

“Since my mom left, mine dad is there seven days,” Jimenez said. “The bicycle shop is basically what maintained us going.”

Immigrants like Jimenez have actually long to be the backbone that the city’s economy. Foreign-born new Yorkers make up 43% the the workforce and own nearly fifty percent of the city’s small business, employing a half million workers, city data and also research show.

“There space no other cities in the nation for which immigration is an ext central,” said Van Tran, a sociology professor in ~ the Graduate facility at City university of new York.

But the pandemic has disproportionately bring away the lives and livelihoods that immigrant new Yorkers. Till recently, yes been tiny government help for undocumented workers.

The bottom line: The number of foreign-born new Yorkers isn’t growing, as fewer immigrants make their means to the city, federal government data shows.

The number of foreign-born eco-friendly card or visa-holding new Yorkers declined 16% come 1.2 million people in between 2009 and 2019, the latest easily accessible data shows.

Meanwhile, a regime in which household members sponsor family members to immigrate critical year taped its lowest variety of petitions from new York regional offices since 2016, follow to the U.S. Customs and also Immigration organization (USCIS). That program accounts because that two-thirds of every legal immigration nationwide.


Ramón Guerra, an immigration attorney in long Island City, stated the dampened demand reflects “residual results of having an management that basically beat under immigrants for the last four years” — referring to the policies and rhetoric of former President Donald Trump.

Openings and Backlogs

With the come of president Joe Biden in January, the see has started to change.

The Biden management has reinstated protective condition for immigrant from certain countries in crisis. It likewise rescinded the so-called public charge rule that disqualified immigrant who obtained public help from gaining permanent status.

And it finished an information-sharing agreement between the Office of refugee Resettlement and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which had actually led come arrests and deportation of relatives of unaccompanied minors.

But the pandemic has actually introduced delays and sowed confusion for those hope to clear up in new York.

Those search asylum were already facing huge backlogs in the courts that hear their petitions, with just 83 cases granted in September 2019 the end of 45,000 pending applications, the latest accessible numbers. It’s approximated that thousands more applicants are headed to the new York area to await your hearings after ~ Biden canceled a Trump routine that compelled asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico nevertheless of their country of origin.

Since last October, at least 361 unaccompanied minors have actually relocated come live with expanded families or other sponsors in brand-new York City — if 19,000 young world arrived in ~ the U.S.-Mexico border in in march alone.


“In the beginning of the pandemic, that was daunting for people to satisfy in human being to get personal consultations. The service centers for USCIS were every closed. The court were every closed,” stated Guerra. “I’m sure this will increase the backlog.”

The present timeframe because that family-sponsored immigration varieties from one to 3.5 years, according to USCIS.

For part visa holders, their petition come migrate has been authorized after a long wait but they are unable to enter as result of travel restrictions. The USCIS has actually not announced a clean directive for those who visas expired throughout the elevation of the pandemic.

“There’s not a lot of clear answers,” claimed Shuping Den, a supervisor for immigration legal solutions that Chinese-American plan Council gives under the state’s Office for new Americans.

Some space reconsidering your plans to end up being U.S. Citizens altogether.

Den stated the string of hate crimes and harassment incidents versus Asian Americans have her clients worried. “They wonder, if it it s okay worse, carry out they really desire their family to have a life here?”

Immigration scholars say enhanced awareness and mobilization will bring about reforms and also signal come the rest of the civilization that the U.S. Is working to solve its problem. Because that instance: The Biden administration in in march pledged enhanced tracking and also reporting the anti-Asian dislike crimes by the FBI and local law-enforcement organ in solution to the increasing violence.

“The rule of equity, and also democracy and also the procedure of democratic consideration is extremely appealing to many, many Asians and non-Asians from around the world,” stated Tran.

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A merchant sells fresh develop in the northeast Bronx, Feb. 19, 2021. Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY

Bumpy restore

Meanwhile, foreign-born brand-new Yorkers space bracing because that a bumpy recovery.

Policy think tanks estimate there space 359,000 undocumented immigrants citywide. Five times as numerous foreign-born nature citizens live in the city, totaling 1.7 million, alongside an additional 1.3 million foreign-born visa and green map holders, follow to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 estimates.

A current study indigenous the facility for brand-new York City Affairs in ~ the new School reflects foreign-born workers organized 49% the all private jobs however account because that 54% the the tasks lost in the pandemic. Nearly one in six jobs lost due to the pandemic was held by one undocumented worker.

At the height of the pandemic, half of immigrants came to be unemployed.

The unmatched health and economic hardship left immigrants, particularly those there is no legal status, vulnerable. Prior to the newly passed $ 2.1 exchange rate state relief fund for so-called excluded workers, numerous immigrants had actually to depend on mutual assist and neighborhood groups for an easy goods and services.

“A lot of human being stepped up because the government didn’t,” claimed Jaime Weisberg, a senior analyst for the Association for Neighborhood and also Housing Development.

As previously reported by THE CITY, communities with a high share of immigrants, such as Corona and Sunset Park, received forgivable PPP loan at a reduced rate than various other neighborhoods.

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Street merchants sell food in Corona, Queens, Sept. 2, 2020. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY Some problem structural obstacles immigrant business owners and also workers confronted in accessing the federal loan program could be recurring in distribution of the state’s relief funds.

“Many nothing keep documents in the same means traditional give programs are expecting enterprise to keep records,” claimed Karen Narefsky, a senior organizer at ANHD.

In addition, plenty of immigrant workers and also business owners absence the resources to operation a timeless brick-and-mortar business and also instead operate on roadways or food van and type worker co-ops. Supporters say the city’s regulations and other red tape room prohibitive, through not enough licenses to go around.

Jorge Morales immigrant to new York City from Ecuador in the 1980s, drove a cab, ran a food truck for 30 years external of LaGuardia Airport and owned a residence in Jackson Heights. Morales passed away of COVID-19 on critical March. He was 65.

His wife, Maggie Morales, plans to proceed to job-related the food van — but in the Hudson Valley wherein their son, Danny Morales, at this time lives. Danny Morales claimed that in the city, operating costs to keep up v licenses and parking fees room too huge while organization is slow.

“It doesn’t do sense economically for the food truck to exist in the city anymore,” that added.


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