Kerri Talbot

A large population of immigrants currently still on- the- job performing essential services continue to fall between the cracks during the coronavirus emergency.

Attorney Kerri Talbot, Director of Federal Advocacy for the Immigration Hub, an organization which seeks to help counter escalating anti-immigrant sentiment in this country and restrictive immigration policies voiced concern that immigrants don’t have adequate access to either testing or treatment.

“The bills that have passed congress so far have not provided enough economic support or health coverage for immigrants including those who have DACA -Deferred Action for Children and TPS – Temporary Protected Status and others.”

“We’re really concerned that during this crisis people are not going to be able to access the healthcare that they need because they are not covered by emergency Medicaid.”

“We really need to make sure that everyone has access to testing and treatment.” said Talbot.

The pandemic has placed light on the large cracks in our social safety net which still fails to adequately catch the disproportionate number of people of color and immigrants in need. Currently, these populations aren’t adequately indicated in the number of daily reported cases.

“Citizens, people here with green cards, DACA folks, those with temporary protected status, and the undocumented, they all need to be able to get tested and treated. Without that we’re just putting all our communities at risk.”

The first few bills did have a state option for Medicaid, but it did not cover undocumented immigrants, nor recent green card holders or people with DACA or Temporary Protected Status.

Additionally Immigration Hub is hoping for cash payments to go to immigrant families. The past bills don’t cover families who have mixed immigration status. 

“If one parent is undocumented and one parent is a citizen, and the kids are citizens, that family is not getting any money, not one penny. Because there are undocumented people in the family. At the very least congress needs to make sure that people who are born here, are citizens, they should have access to cash payments. And we believe that undocumented individuals should as well.”

“So many [undocumented and green card holders] are doing essential services, farm workers, people working in stores and restaurants, doing deliveries, healthcare workers, we need to make sure these folks are able to pay their rent and stay in their homes.”

Dr. Daniel Turner Lloveras at Harbor UCLA Medical Center emphasized those in ethnic communities who are the most vulnerable whether documented or undocumented need equal access to health care right now.

He points to the spread of the virus that can occur in overcrowded detention centers and jails and said he is aware of reports of immigrants avoiding testing or treatment for fear of being apprehended by ICE. “We need to stop the arrest of immigrants who are seeking health care, that has to stop.” he said.

With similar concerns expressed by Dr. Turner Lloveras, Immigration Hub has zeroed in on the state of detention centers and how they’ve become a significant risk factor for the spread of the coronavirus.

“Immigrants in detention are at very high risk of getting coronavirus, we’ve heard many reports this week of individuals in ICE Custody who now have it and they’re living in very close quarters and it’s very dangerous to them.” she said.

“Individuals should be released, starting with people who are elderly, or who have serious illnesses. They need to be let out of detention.”

Immigration Hub has been successful in the last few bills making sure the Department of Homeland Security did not receive additional funding, but they have yet to be successful in getting ICE to have a clear policy on their policies of enforcement during this pandemic.

It’s the position of Immigration Hub to release those who should not remain in detention, that immigrants are given the benefit from those holding them to adhere to health and safety standards, and a clarification that people who go to the hospital will not risk detainment from ICE.

Other issues not covered in the past bills that Immigration Hub would like covered are language access and the public charge rule.

“We want to make sure that people who are being intubated or being put into the ICU understand what is happening to them and that there are adequate interpretation services.” said Talbot.

The threat of deportation has scared many members of the immigrant community into avoiding treatment or testing during this crisis.

“We want to make sure that immigrants are not going to be punished if they seek health services during this emergency.”

“Some immigrants can get tested for coronavirus at their local community health center. We want to make sure people are able to get treatment as well and that they have the economic support to stay in their homes.”

It remains a challenge for those who are undocumented immigrants to find the resources to keep afloat during the pandemic. Receiving unemployment is far from their grasp, even if they’ve been paying taxes. 

However, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday, April 15, a $125 million fund to provide stimulus dollars for undocumented immigrants. Also, they can possibly benefit from sick pay and disability insurance in the state of California.

“If your pay stub shows that you have paid state taxes, you are eligible,” said Sebastian Sanchez, an attorney with Legal Services Bet Tzedek’s Employment Rights Project, “The problem is that on the forms to apply for payment, you are required to have a social security number, when most undocumented workers use a false number or someone else’s. If they use those, they can commit perjury,” he said.

One recommendation given is to use paper applications to request sick days or disability rather than online, and leave the social security number space blank.

“Maybe when the Department of Employment contacts you, they will ask for your pay stubs and your W-2 forms to prove that you are the person paying those taxes,” Sanchez said.

A recent UCLA report also indicated many in Latino neighborhoods are ineligible for federal dollars or CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act Funds.

The report found 56% of Latino-majority neighborhoods in L.A. County with a high concentration of residents who don’t have social security cards or citizenship status.

The report suggests local governments should step in to help those who won’t receive funds and who need targeted assistance.