COVID-19 and Immigration
Updated April 15, 2020
How does COVID-19 impact immigrant populations?
Immigrant communities, particularly those in low-income areas, and undocumented immigrant families are particularly high-risk during the coronavirus pandemic. As many in our society stockpile food and cleaning supplies, work from home, and are able to visit doctors when needed, these are not always possible for immigrant populations.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2019, 23 percent of immigrants and 45 percent of undocumented immigrants were uninsured. Additionally, President Trump’s public charge rule discourages immigrants from using “means-tested welfare programs” such as Medicaid or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), both of which are critical in the present moment.
There are many other barriers for immigrants and undocumented immigrants as well. Language barriers can make it difficult for immigrants to access information about testing, quarantining, and safety-precautions. Fear of ICE raids or of having their undocumented status discovered may stop them from going to the hospital when ill. Many people who have immigrated, whether documented and undocumented, hold hourly service work positions that do not provide them with paid sick leave or the ability to work from home. Financial barriers also play a role in this, as the cost of medical care may be unrealistic for immigrants and their families.
How does COVID-19 impact detention centers?
Undocumented immigrants being held in detention centers are especially high risk because they do not have the ability to social distance from others. People in detention centers with underlying health conditions or who are over the age of 60 are in a very vulnerable position that is out of their control.
ICE has indicated that they are reviewing cases of high-risk detainees and releasing those who are vulnerable, however, this still leaves detention centers as hotspots for outbreaks of the virus. ICE has also reported (as of April 8th) that only 32 of its detainees have tested positive for the virus, but with a shortage of tests and some people being asymptomatic carriers, it’s impossible to know the true numbers.
On April 8th, in the Krome detention center, 238 detainees were put into quarantine because someone at the center tested positive. Shortages of cleaning supplies, hand sanitizers, etc. have also made it very difficult to stay safe from the virus in detention centers. These detainees should be released immediately, as they are being held in unsafe, unsanitary, and inhumane conditions.
Resources for Activists
- Human Impact Partner Taking Action for Health, Justice, and Belonging in the Age of COVID-19
- The New York Immigration Coalition has a list of demands for how state government can help undocumented immigrants during the crisis
- Center for American Progress: Federal Immigration Officials Can Help Protect Public Health During the Coronavirus Pandemic
- National Immigration Law Center: Update on Access to Health Care for Immigrants and Their Families
- Washington Monthly: They Can Help Fight Coronavirus. Trump Wants to Deport Them
- Center for American Progress: Resources on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (not COVID-19 specific)
- National Immigration Law Center: Understanding the Impact of Key Provisions of COVID-19 Relief Bills on Immigrant Communities
- Center for American Progress: Removing Barriers for Immigrant Medical Professionals Is Critical To Help Fight Coronavirus
- The Washington Post: Immigrants are in the same boat with the rest of us in this pandemic. The administration doesn’t care.
- The Washington Post: ‘It’s a time bomb’: ICE detainees seek release amid growing coronavirus fears
Resources for Immigrant Women and Families
For undocumented immigrants, being held in inhumane detention centers increases the risk of being infected by the COVID-19 virus. Visits to detention prisons are also being limited, leading to further isolation from the world and from their legal resources. For those not detained, fear of interior border patrol checkpoints and ICE raids are a barrier to seeking and receiving medical care along the border and across the United States.
- RAICES: COVID-19 Resources
- National Immigrant Justice Center – Seeking Legal Help during COVID-19
- COVID-19 Resources for Undocumented Californians
- Find a Community Health Center Near You (Regardless of Immigration Status)
- Undocuscholars: COVID-19 Resources for Undocumented Communities
- Church World Service: COVID-19 Legislation: Quick Facts and Analysis for Refugees and Resettlement Offices