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Immigrant Rights and Healthcare Access During COVID-19

This is a FAQ for immigrants who want to know more about how the issue of public charge might affect their ability to access healthcare and other services during this COVID-19 pandemic.

I don't have legal immigration status. Can I get tested for coronavirus?

Yes. Under the law, everyone is eligible for testing and treatment of communicable diseases, including coronavirus (COVID-19. This includes people without legal immigration status. 

Vaccines for communicable diseases are also available to everyone. This is true no matter your immigration status. If a vaccine is developed for coronavirus, you and your family members should be able to get it, even if you don't have legal immigration status. 

Though undocumented individuals are typically not eligible for health insurance, there are many free/low-cost clinics that serve the uninsured. Find more information here.

If I get treated for coronavirus, will that count against me in the "public charge" test? Will it make it hard for me to get a Green Card?

No and no.  Testing and treatment for coronavirus will not count against you in the public charge test. USCIS made a special announcement about this.

Not all immigrants are subject to the public charge test. To learn more, read Public Charge Test.

American Gateways has developed a list of local medical services available to undocumented communities, read more here.

 

My family's income has gone down because of the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of work. Will this be a problem in the public charge test?

Maybe not. USCIS says you can provide an explanation and/or documentation (proof) if the coronavirus outbreak has affected your economic situation. This could include less household income due to layoffs, or a temporary need to use cash assistance. 

Note that a federal judge on Wednesday July 30, 2020, blocked the “public charge” rule — which allows the government to deny legal permanent residency to many immigrants who have received public benefits — during the coronavirus pandemic and while a legal challenge makes its way through lower courts.  The ruling means for the time being the Trump Administration cannot continue denying green cards to many migrants who use Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers, or other forms of public assistance. See more here.

 

Isn't it a problem for immigrants to use medical benefits?

In many cases, no. If you are subject to the public charge test, you probably are not eligible for federally funded non-emergency Medicaid, the only medical program that immigration officials will consider. 

These medical benefits are not considered in the public charge test:

 

  • Medical benefits (including Medicaid) used by pregnant women or people under age 21

  • Medical benefits used by family members of the person seeking immigration status

  • Emergency Medicaid

  • State-funded medical benefits

Note that a federal judge on Wednesday July 30, 2020, blocked the “public charge” rule — which allows the government to deny legal permanent residency to many immigrants who have received public benefits — during the coronavirus pandemic and while a legal challenge makes its way through lower courts.  The ruling means for the time being the Trump Administration cannot continue denying green cards to many migrants who use Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers, or other forms of public assistance. See more here.

 

Is it safe for me to see a doctor if I need to?

Yes. Your doctor cannot share patient information about you, including your immigration status, without your permission.

Federal guidelines say that immigration officials or ICE cannot arrest people or do other enforcement activities at health care facilities like hospitals and clinics.

 

 

Is it safe for me to apply for medical benefits on YourTexasBenefits for myself or my family?

Yes. The information on your application for medical benefits can only be used to decide if you are eligible for benefits.  It cannot be shared with immigration officials.

Where can I learn more about coronavirus? Where can I find resources to support immigrants during this time?

There is more information available in other languages at the CDC's website

Additional COVID-19 resources for undocumented communities can be found here. 

TexasLawHelp has compiled these resources here.

The Tahirih Justice Center has published an analysis of COVID-19's effect on immigrant survivors. You can read it here.