Before the pandemic, immigrants were already afraid of coming forward to either apply for documentation or even in some situations go to a hospital.
Now, with Trump continuing to oppress the immigrant community, it could scare the community even further from getting care during this COVID-19 crisis, possibly accelerating the spread of a deadly outbreak in the U.S., among one of the most vulnerable sectors in society.
Those who already do not have any legal immigration status or representation already avoid hospitals “out of fear that their information might be released to ICE, even though emergency rooms here are known for being welcoming” said Ismael Castro, a project manager at Building Healthy Communities in Boyle Heights, told NBC in a recent report.
But people have every right to be afraid of ICE. ICE has raided hospitals in immigrant communities in the past. Today, ICE continues to terrorize the immigrant community. On the first day of quarantine, California ICE agents with masks went into communities while they were at home.
The Trump administration has continued to not only attack the immigrant community, but has also attacked the legal immigration system, making it harder for immigrants to get a green card if they’ve used or are likely to use a safety net program such as Medicaid or food stamps.
Last month, the Supreme Court handed Trump a win by allowing the revised public charge rule to go into effect. As a result, it had a chilling effect on immigrants seeking care during this pandemic and leaving them vulnerable of possibly being infected.
The recent public charge rule by the Trump Administration is being used as a scare tactic to signal to the immigrant community to not apply for any public services. Experts predict that millions of people may drop public benefits out of fear they fall under stricter guidelines.
According to a survey by Kaiser Family Foundation last fall, almost half of the nation’s community health care centers reported immigrants were refusing to enroll into Medicaid and other public services amid confusion over the public charge rule. Thus, putting their life and their loved ones at risk of getting infected with no care.
The COVID-19 pandemic puts immigrants in certain challenges besides finding care. They are likely to live in a crowded house, use public transportation, and be low income.
These factors make them more vulnerable to being infected and spreading it at home or at a workplace. Not to mention that they don’t have the funds or coverage they need in order to fight COVID-19.
As COVID-19 sweeps throughout the U.S., immigrants may be among the least likely to self-isolate and find medical care that is necessary to protect their health and slow the spread of COVID-19.
These are not new social issues. The existing policies against immigrants and the wider community are becoming more evident in the era of the coronavirus pandemic.
We live in the richest country on the planet, but still lack basic health care services and preparedness for such a health crisis.