These Lawmakers Are Trying to Extend Needed Coronavirus Relief to Immigrant Families

By Alicia Barrón

April 10, 2020

Arizona’s Raúl Grijalva says immigrants are working the essential jobs Americans depend on and coronavirus doesn’t care about immigration status.

As Americans await relief from the recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), there’s one part of the population that may lose out: the immigrant community.

As it currently stands, the recently-passed act includes a “public charge” policy, implemented by the Trump administration, that does not explicitly guarantee everyone with COVID-19 gets medical treatment, regardless of immigration status.

But if five lawmakers have it their way, that will soon change.

Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva is one of the five legislators introducing a bill that would ensure immigrant families are also protected under the newly-signed CARES Act. 

Last week, Grijalva announced he and Rep. Judy Chu and Rep. Lou Correa, both democrats from California, introduced the Coronavirus Immigration Families Protection Act.

On the same day, California’s Sen. Kamala Harris announced she and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) are joining the efforts to ensure “vulnerable communities” have access to health care and resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Immigrant activists claim the $2 trillion COVID-19 emergency relief bill approved by Congress provides little relief for immigrants as it stands, and on March 20, several civil rights groups sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The letter urges them to address two major provisions of the CARES Act that excluded millions of immigrant families and children who are U.S. citizens.

“Immigrant workers are working in many of the essential jobs keeping our communities and the economy running during this uncertain time,” Rep. Grijalva said in a press release. “COVID-19 does not care about your immigration status, so neither should our response.”

Overall, the Coronavirus Immigration Families Protection Act would prohibit discrimination based on immigration status when people seek COVID-19 relief programs. 

The legislation was quickly shared by the National Immigration Law Center with the explanatory tweet below.

In addition, this new bill would appropriate money so the Center for Disease Control (CDC) can issue grants to organizations working to provide COVID-19 aid within immigrant communities. 

“As coronavirus has upended all our lives, we in Congress have rushed to provide the necessary relief to help our whole economy survive this crisis,” Rep. Grijalva added. “But you cannot do that by excluding entire segments of the population.”

This legislation would also prohibit enforcement agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from carrying out immigration visits or raids at places like hospitals or other healthcare centers where people are seeking medical treatment.

The Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project (ILAP) in Maine posted a call to action on its Facebook page demanding Congress fix gaps in the CARE act with this new legislation. ILAP’s encouraging people to get involved by making calls to their local representatives.

At this time, a vote on the Coronavirus Immigration Families Protection Act has yet to be scheduled.


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