The Center for American Progress estimates that 202,500 recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) work in jobs on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. Arizona had the sixth most DACA recipients working on the front lines, with an estimated 6,800 individuals. These include sectors such as health care, food services, and education.
Maria Leon Peña is one of the individuals that is working on the front lines in response to COVID-19. She is a Phoenix nursing assistant and is one of an estimated 29,000 health care workers in the U.S. who are undocumented but have remained in this country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program.
Peña, now 23, came to Arizona from Mexico with her mom and a brother when she was 5. Her role involves 12-hour days in a Phoenix hospital, three days a week, where she works one-on-one with patient’s post-surgery.
People like Maria are the reason why four Arizona lawmakers wrote the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in April, urging officials there to automatically extend work authorizations for DACA recipients.
Rep. Greg Stanton of Phoenix, one of the lawmakers on the letter, said the pandemic shows just how important DACA recipients are to the Phoenix community. “We need them,” Stanton said. “We can’t successfully win this fight against the coronavirus without these essential workers, and so many of them are DACA recipients.”