"Pandemic response"; Immigrant; COVID-19; "Online Focus Groups"


Medicine and Health Sciences | Social and Behavioral Sciences



Immigrants in the United States (US) are disproportionately affected by disasters. Yet the effects of one type of disaster—pandemics—have been underexplored in this regard. The purpose of this study was to better understand these effects, with specific attention to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on US immigrants and their social networks.


Forty-five US immigrants (aged 18 and above) participated across eight online focus groups during spring 2020. Using “criterion of inclusion” sampling, participants were recruited via gatekeeper and snowball sampling methods. Anonymity was maintained throughout all online focus group sessions. Discussions were transcribed and then categorized into distinct code families for immigrants’ “experiences during pandemic” and “pandemic response activities.” The resultant human-categorized content was then qualitatively analyzed to explore the effects of COVID-19 on US immigrants.


COVID-19 posed unique challenges for immigrant communities in spring 2020. These challenges included added burdens of sending financial resources abroad, caring for dependent parents, and managing immigration status anxieties—alongside more commonplace challenges concerning childcare, employment, and interpersonal relationships. At the same time, US immigrants showed remarkable ability to leverage their experiences and social networks in response to COVID-19, so as to (1) provide pandemic-relevant health education within their communities, (2) provide targeted support to those in need (both in the US and in their home countries), and (3) draw upon past experiences in immigrants’ home countries when navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated government lockdown in the US.


US immigrants were significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to more broadly-imposed pandemic burdens related to concerns about childcare, employment, and interpersonal relationships, immigrant communities have faced unique challenges brought on by the pandemic. However, this study’s examination of pandemic experiences and response activities has illustrated that US immigrants’ unique backgrounds, cultures, and social networks have provided them with a number of notable resources and strategies for coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. These findings offer important insights into strategies that should be leveraged as part of planning and response to prevent the disparate impacts of current and future pandemics on immigrant populations.