550+ Advocates Say Coronavirus Response Undermined by Excluding Immigrant Families


Hayley Burgess, media@nilc.org, 202-805-0375

Tom Salyers, tsalyers@clasp.org, 202-906-8002

WASHINGTON — More than 550 advocacy organizations from all over the country sent a letter Tuesday urging congressional leadership to deliver coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response legislation that extends health care and economic support to all families, including immigrant families. The letter, signed by 561 organizations, was coordinated by the National Immigration Law Center and the Center for Law and Social Policy. It warns that continued failure to address the health and economic stability of immigrant families will “greatly undermine the nation’s ability to overcome this unprecedented crisis.”

More than a dozen national health care provider and advocacy groups signed onto the letter. Provider groups include the National Medical Association, the National Hispanic Medical Association, the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, and the National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians. Advocates include Families USA, Community Catalyst, and Health Care for America Now.

“It’s simple — if immigrant families can’t get the health care they need, we are all at risk,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “Immigrants are among the essential workers helping to lead America’s fight against COVID-19 — caring for the sick, harvesting our food, delivering packages, and transporting critical supplies — yet Congress has failed to protect immigrant families from the health and economic threat of COVID-19. Immigrant families will be key drivers of our nation’s recovery from this pandemic, and should be included in any future relief packages.”

“Hundreds of leading health provider and advocacy voices agree — Congress must address the needs of immigrant families,” said Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center on Law and Social Policy. “But every day they delay puts all of us at risk. Congress must act now to ensure that everyone, regardless of where they were born, can access economic support, workplace protections, health care, and other supports they need to thrive.”

The letter names specific policy changes required for an inclusive and effective COVID-19 response:

  • Halting implementation of public charge regulations that deter immigrant families from getting needed health care and assistance.
  • Making health care is available regardless of a person’s immigration status, income or categorical eligibility, with COVID-19-related care covered through Medicaid.
  • Increased funding for Community Health Centers, free and charitable clinics, school-based health centers, and critical access hospitals, which are essential providers in many immigrant and low-income communities.
  • Deliver information about COVID-19, health care options, and public programs in multiple languages and through trusted community providers, with interpretation services funding.
  • Tax rebates for filers who use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, as well as those who use a Social Security Number.
  • Extending nutrition assistance programs like the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) to immigrant families, and extending the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program through the summer of 2020.

Many of these policies are incorporated in the Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act, introduced by Congresswoman Judy Chu (H.R. 6437) and Senator Mazie Hirono (Senate bill number not yet assigned). Legislation, also sponsored by Congresswoman Chu, to block implementation of the public charge regulation has 124 cosponsors in the House of Representatives.

Research confirms that the Trump administration’s “public charge” regulation has deterred immigrant families from seeking health care assistance. Since then, public health officials have warned that public charge and other Trump anti-immigrant policies undermine the nation’s response to COVID-19. Experts have also warned that immigrant families and other families of color face additional barriers to care and economic resilience, as well as disproportionate impact from both the health and economic consequences of COVID-19. Yet response packages enacted with bipartisan support in Congress have left immigrant families out of COVID-19-related health care and economic assistance.