April 07, 2020

Wyden, Merkley to Introduce Legislation Helping Immigrant Families During COVID-19 Public Health Crisis

Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act Would Suspend Policies that Discourage Immigrant Families from Using Essential Services

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley said today they will introduce legislation that would ensure everyone in the United States can have access to health care and other critical resources that are needed to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

“This global pandemic has touched off a massive public health challenge for everybody in our country, and the response to keep everybody safe must not discriminate against any human being based on immigration status,” Wyden said. “This essential legislation would make sure immigrants have the access to healthcare they need to get through this crisis and continue living, working and contributing to communities throughout Oregon and nationwide.”

“The only way we’re going to get through this crisis is by coming together and making sure that everyone has the ability to stay home if they’re well, and to receive quality medical attention and treatment if they get sick,” said Merkley. “We urgently need to make sure that all of us—regardless of the color of our skin, the language we speak, or the zip code where we live—has access to that kind of care. This legislation is an essential step in the right direction toward achieving that goal, by ensuring that every worker in America is eligible for medical and financial recovery assistance, regardless of their immigration status.”

The Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act would help ensure all communities can have access to COVID-19 testing and treatment, and other relief services provided in coronavirus relief legislation. The legislation also would provide dedicated funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct public outreach in multiple languages to hard-to-reach populations so vulnerable communities have access to COVID-19 relief measures and critical public health information.

The bill would also temporarily modify immigration policies that deter immigrants from receiving the medical care they need throughout the coronavirus pandemic, such as the public charge rule. This rule has had a widespread chilling effect in discouraging even those not subject to the rule from seeking health care and other critical services due to confusion and fear about the rule’s impact.

In addition to Wyden and Merkley, the legislation is co-sponsored in the Senate by U.S. Sens. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

The broad coalition of organizations supporting the Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act includes the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), National Immigration Law Center (NILC), National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), Tahirih Justice Center, United We Dream (UWD), Center for American Progress, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, Casa de Esperanza, Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, CCLA Inc., California Immigrant Policy Center, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), Japanese American Citizens League, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF), Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates, and Central American Resource Center (CARECEN-LA).