As cases of COVID-19 continue to skyrocket in the United States, it is no surprise that pre-existing health inequalities are worsening. Health and immigration policies put in place long before the pandemic reached the United States set the stage for these inequalities and will contribute to unnecessary suffering, sickness, and fear during this crisis. It is essential to ensure that all community members, regardless of immigration status, have the resources they need to weather this storm. This is vital not only for the health of immigrants themselves, but also for the health of the broader public.
By Whitney L. Duncan and Sarah B. Horton
Barriers To COVID-19 Testing And Treatment For Undocumented Immigrants
Increased immigration enforcement around the country has led to understandable fear among undocumented immigrants, fear that has extended to accessing basic resources like education, economic assistance, and—perhaps most crucially at the moment—healthcare.
Some immigrants have expressed concerns around even leaving the house because of threats of increased Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activity in their communities.
Indeed, although ICE announced it would slow civil immigration enforcement actions during the pandemic, news reports suggest that enforcement has continued in some areas. Uncertainty also extends into clinical spaces, where immigrants worry about ICE presence or about staff sharing patients’ legal status.
Even those without active fears around immigration enforcement may be reluctant to access healthcare due to policies like the “public charge” rule change, which went into effect on February 24, 2020, just days before the first reported instances of community spread of the COVID-19 virus in the United States.