Immigrant advocates and health care providers on Monday urged America's undocumented immigrants to seek medical attention if they suspect they have contracted the coronavirus, despite recent moves by the Trump administration to curb immigrant consumption of public resources.
A coalition of immigrant rights and health care advocates, led by the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), said immigration status should not be a barrier to medical care and preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
“Even if (a restrictive immigration policy) impacts you, it should not be a reason to avoid care,” said Louise McCarthy, president and CEO of the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County, which represents nonprofit community clinics and health centers operating in the area. "We can find ways to get you service without jeopardizing your status and your ability to become a citizen.”
Limiting the spread of the coronavirus requires prompt diagnoses. For many immigrants, being diagnosed means coming out of the shadows.
Don't fear asking for treatment
People who lack legal immigration status often avoid hospitals, a tendency that could be heightened after the Trump administration went forward with unprecedented enforcement of the "public charge rule," which says low-income immigrants can be denied legal residency if they use or are deemed likely to rely on public assistance programs.
“It is causing fear, and we want to make sure our communities know (they) should not be afraid to seek services," McCarthy said. "If you are not feeling well, call your local community clinic, seek help."
McCarthy said the clinics she represents are trained in prevention measures and can support those who suspect they have the virus.
More than 600 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the United States as of Monday.
Advocates argued that in a public health crisis, legal status should take a back seat to effective epidemiological measures.
Message is preparedness in LA
Richard Seidman, chief medical officer at L.A. Care, said there are no cases of community transmission of coronavirus in Los Angeles County, but “that's likely to change, and the message is preparedness, rather than panic.”
Seidman added, “I can assure you that the county and the community clinics that are represented today will see you, regardless of immigration status.
Four cases in Maryland
In Montgomery County, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C., with a large immigrant community, local officials confirmed four cases of coronavirus.
County Council Vice President Tom Hucker recently said he was especially worried about transmission of the virus within the county’s large immigrant population.
Hucker acknowledged the impact of the public charge rule.
“We have a very diverse population of undocumented residents who have understandable fears now of interacting with government agencies,” he said.
Hucker stressed that it is “very important that these folks know in Montgomery County they’re safe, and they should seek medical attention right away if they have symptoms.”