WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Sunday that undocumented immigrants can receive testing for the coronavirus without fearing that it might leave them open to enforcement measures by ICE.
“Yes, we will test that person” without referring them to immigration authorities, Trump said at a Sunday evening press briefing by the White House coronavirus task force.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams reiterated the point. “We know that the virus doesn’t judge based on where you are from,” he said.
These reassurances came on a day that the number of coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 33,000. More than 400 Americans have died from COVID-19, the lower respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced Sunday that he had tested positive for exposure to the virus and would be quarantined at home.
Undocumented immigrants have been subject to immigration raids in California and New York in recent weeks. Though those raids were unrelated to the coronavirus outbreak, immigration advocates say they make people in those communities reluctant to have official contact that could call attention to themselves, such as seeking medical testing. That, in turn, could allow the coronavirus to spread.
“The fear that this administration has fueled in immigrant communities is thwarting efforts to protect the public health of everybody,” an immigration attorney told The New York Times last week.
As Vice President Mike Pence pointed out during Sunday’s briefing, immigrations officials have already said they will not target medical facilities for enforcement actions, but given the widespread mistrust of the Trump administration by undocumented immigrants, the message probably bore repeating.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a guidance on March 18 that the agency would “not carry out enforcement operations at or near health care facilities, such as hospitals, doctors' offices, accredited health clinics, and emergent or urgent care facilities, except in the most extraordinary of circumstances. Individuals should not avoid seeking medical care because they fear civil immigration enforcement.”
Similar, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said that seeking “treatment or preventive services” related to the coronavirus “will not negatively affect” legal immigrants seeking green cards or citizenship under the administration’s expanded public charge rule.
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