Indianapolis Uses New Research to Inform Immigrant-inclusive COVID-19 Relief Measures

New Research from New American Economy shows that immigrants in Marion County play an outsize role in critical industries, making up over 14 percent of the food sector workers and 13.5 percent of transportation and warehouse workers.

Indianapolis, IN – New research from New American Economy (NAE) released today in partnership with the Immigrant Welcome Center, highlights how immigrants are both essential to Indianapolis’ rapid response efforts and especially vulnerable due to gaps in our federal relief package, barriers in language access, and increased risks of infection associated with frontline and essential work. 

The Immigrant Welcome Center is one of twelve recipients of NAE research to inform culturally sensitive emergency response measures that ensure all residents are included, regardless of immigration status. This customized research report highlights the demographic nuances of Marion County’s immigrant population and will inform the advocacy, development, and implementation of inclusive local emergency responses.

Key findings from this report include:

  • Immigrants serve in essential industries and carry out vital roles that keep Marion County functioning but put them at higher risk of infection. Despite making up just 9.2 percent of the county’s population, immigrants comprise more than 14.9 percent of all food sector workers and 13.5 percent of all transportation and warehousing workers in 2018. 
  • Immigrants play an important role in Marion County as job creators but are concentrated in industries that are especially vulnerable to the economic recession caused by COVID-19.  Immigrants make up over 35 percent of business owners in construction and 15.2 percent of business owners in general services, which includes personal services like laundry, barber, and repair shops. 
  • Culturally sensitive and language accessible emergency materials are in demand. In 2018, over 30 percent of immigrants, or 26,230, living in Marion County had limited English language proficiency. Among them, the top three languages spoken at home other than English were: Spanish (69.5percent), Burmic languages: Burmese, Lisu and Lolo (13.1 percent), and Chinese (5.1 percent). 
  • Access to healthcare and medical services remains critical. In 2018, 111,799 Marion County residents were without insurance, 34 percent, or 29,448, of which were immigrants.

“The data show how truly essential immigrants are to Indianapolis and how important these members of our community are for our COVID-19 recovery,” shared Jackie Rodriguez, Marketing and Communications Manager for the Immigrant Welcome Center.  “The 14,000 frontline workers do not have the option to stay home. At the same time, 34% of the immigrant community is without health coverage. This combination heightens health risks for everyone and has a negative impact on our city’s capacity to work through and recover from COVID-19. The Immigrant Welcome Center is increasing its efforts promoting access to critical information in a variety of languages and providing education on affordable health care options and health insurance to immigrants. We hope that this data helps local leaders see better how vital immigrants are to Indianapolis and how investments now in these neighbors help everyone collectively.”

“The immigrant population is essential to keeping Indianapolis running, yet is especially vulnerable to gaps in our social safety nets,” said Mo Kantner, Director of State and Local Initiatives at New American Economy. “This new NAE research will support efforts by local communities to work quickly and innovatively to fill critical gaps in federal programs and ensure that response and recovery efforts reach all residents.”

Read the full research report here.

About Immigrant Welcome Center (IWC)

IWC  is a non-profit organization that serves the immigrant and refugee communities of Indianapolis by connecting them to the people, places, and resources they need to thrive. We do this by focusing on three main areas: 1) Immigrant integration, 2) Community Impact, and  3) Community development. We guide Indianapolis immigrants along their integration journey by sharing critical information and resources via our Natural Helper volunteer program and Reuben Educational Series. We then work to provide training and development to other agencies who also assist immigrants. We do this work through regular convening of providers for education and connection, as well as distinct consulting for individual agencies in order to address their specific interests. We are also committed to making Indianapolis a more welcoming city where immigrants can thrive. To that end, we hold Cultural Humility trainings that prompt participants to build their awareness and sensitivity to different cultures, and regularly interact with elected officials and funders in order to keep them apprised of the immigrant experience and what systemic changes would be meaningful. 

Visit for more information.

About New American Economy

New American Economy (NAE) is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization founded to educate, empower and support policymakers, influencers, and citizens across the country that see the economic and social benefits of a smart approach to immigration reform. NAE has created a coalition of civic, business, and cultural leaders who span the political spectrum and represent all 50 states. NAE makes the case for smart immigration reform in four ways: 1) we use powerful research to demonstrate how immigration impacts our economy, 2) we organize championsat the grassroots and influencer levels to build support for immigration, 3) we partner with state and local leaders to advocate for policies that recognize the value immigrants add locally, and 4) we show immigrant contributions to American culture through film, food, art, sports, comedy, and more. 

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…