Undocumented workers have long filled thousands of jobs in Massachusetts on construction sites, in restaurant kitchens and on cleaning crews. And like their coworkers, many have been laid off as efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus bring everyday life to a standstill. But there's one crucial difference: Undocumented immigrants can't access unemployment benefits.

Three people who call the Boston area home, but have no legal status, shared their fears with WGBH News about surviving without a paycheck and, during a worsening public health crisis, being fearful of accessing medical help.

One East Boston woman said she had come from El Salvador with her two children after her father was murdered. The woman, who did not want to be identified by name, recently lost her job as a cook when the restaurant she worked for closed because of the coronavirus. Her husband, brother and sister-in law lost their restaurant work as well, she said. Because they are undocumented, none of them can collect unemployment.

“We don’t know whether the restaurants are closed for two or three weeks,” she said in Spanish. “That’s what the owner is saying, but really we don’t know with any certainty when we’ll start working. And that’s really worrying, because how is the family going to eat? And the bills are still coming, the rent that we have to pay. This is really worrying us, not knowing what to do.”

Her voice wavered as she described watching people leave supermarkets with stockpiles of food. She pleaded for those with money to think of those without.

“Think a little about the people who go to the supermarkets and don’t have the same resources as them to buy two full shopping carts at once," she said. "Think of these people who do not have enough money."

Marion Davis of the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) said that the biggest concern facing most undocumented immigrants is access to food.

There are no official resources designed for undocumented people, and advocates are scrambling to gather donations for charity funds. Boston’s COVID-19 resource guide for immigrants “regardless of immigration status” refers those needing food to the nonprofit Project Bread, which has a FoodSource Hotline. It gives statewide referrals to locations that provide food support, and the organization says it can provide information in 160 different languages.

In Revere, a woman who wanted to be identified only as Flor said she has been getting food from her local church. She lives alone and had been working in a local bakery during the day and as a washroom attendant in a club at night. Two weeks ago, she said, she lost both jobs in one day.

Like many other immigrants, she also worries about her family members who still live in Colombia.

“I don’t know how I will pay the rent, pay for food. And I am most worried about my family in Colombia because they have also begun quarantine,” Flor said.

Some undocumented people decide to go public with their status in order to help their fellow immigrants. Nelson Hernandez from Framingham, Mass., is active in a group called La Voz de la Comunidad - Framingham. He said he lost his job in construction when his boss sent everyone home because of the virus. He now worries about feeding his wife and two kids.

“Many people are afraid and don’t know their rights, are panicking about what to do, what they’ll do to pay for rent, for lights, or food,” he said. “If we run out of it, if they order a curfew. What are we going to do? No one knows how to live through this. It’s a mess, a historic moment in the world.”

And there’s another concern that could impact public health efforts to contain COVID-19: fear of going to a hospital.

“We don’t know that everybody’s going to feel safe getting medical help, getting tested or getting treated, because we’ve had three years of very intense fear in our communities," said Davis. "We’ve been hearing a long time from providers that people were avoiding clinics and avoiding hospitals.”

Hernandez said he would go to a hospital if needed, but that he knows others who are worried about U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He knows people who have been arrested — though not at hospitals or clinics — but the fear is nonetheless hard to shake.

“I have a lot of friends that have told me they are afraid because when people are at home and ICE comes to the house, they believe that they’re going to be arrested. But there’s nothing official, nothing concrete. It’s rumors. We haven’t seen if it’s true or if it’s false. But I think we have to be careful,” he said.

He said he advocates precautions to those who are undocumented, like making sure you know who is at your door and exercising caution when you walk in the street.

According to ICE's website, the agency generally doesn’t enter hospitals and has said they will suspend immigration arrests during the pandemic.

A recent statement on COVID-19 said "ICE does not conduct enforcement operations at medical facilities, except under extraordinary circumstances. Claims to the contrary are false and create unnecessary fear within communities. Individuals should continue to seek medical care."

It’s not a blanket assurance, and with no guarantees about the streets outside hospitals, uncertainty remains. And in a pandemic, fear of health care facilities can hinder efforts to stop contagion.

Davis said she and other advocates want undocumented immigrants to know they should not hesitate to seek medical help when needed.

“Our message and the message that public health officials and health care providers are giving is: You are safe, you should go and get treatment. It is safe,” she said.

Because there are no official statistics, and there are varied approaches to counting undocumented people, the numbers vary widely. The number of undocumented people living in Massachusetts has been calculated to be anywhere from 173,000 to 275,000.

And just like everyone else, undocumented people worry about getting sick.

“Of course,” said the woman from East Boston, “as a family, we’re taking necessary precautions because realistically, this is a virus that they haven’t been able to stop yet.”

She said she thinks people should support each other now more than ever — because this virus makes no distinctions.

"So let’s be aware of what is really happening worldwide, because it is not only locally or in the community here in East Boston," she said. "It’s what’s going on in the whole world."