The Trump administration has implemented a variety of policies designed to curb immigration. Although the White House has insisted that the U.S. welcomes legal immigrants with open arms, all classes of immigrants have experienced lower annual caps, convoluted procedures, and tightened restrictions.
Asylum seekers, for example, currently face a historically low yearly cap of 18,000. The previous cap was 30,000, and the cap set by President Obama in 2016 was 110,000. Additionally, the administration recently implemented a metering policy, in which Border Patrol accepts only a limited number of asylum seekers at a time.
Asylum seekers admitted for processing are held in makeshift encampments, which are currently known for severe overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and complete deprivation of medical treatment. The rest of the asylum seekers must wait in neighboring cities in Mexico, where they face dangerous conditions and limited access to vital resources. In either location, asylum seekers are much more susceptible to disease due to malnutrition, physical hardship, psychological stress, and lack of medical care.
Meanwhile, immigrants in the U.S. who hope to apply for green cards are foregoing medical treatment because they fear it will jeopardize their eligibility. The root of this fear is the public charge rule, which disqualifies applicants from visas and green cards if they have received certain publicly funded benefits. Although emergency medical treatment is exempt from this ground of ineligibility, many are not willing to risk it.
According to public health officials and medical experts, the result of the slowed asylum process and the public charge rule is a large population of immigrants and asylum seekers who are much less likely to obtain treatment for the coronavirus.
According to Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), head of the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, part of the Trump administration’s strategy is to “scare anybody who is an immigrant — documented or undocumented — to feel unwelcome, to feel like you don't belong, and to feel like you're not welcome to participate in things that are healthy for you and healthy for the surrounding community.”
Immigration judges have sought guidance from the administration regarding the coronavirus, but the administration has expressed conflicting messages. Per the suggestion from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, immigration court administrators placed CDC fliers about the coronavirus and disease prevention around courtrooms. Acting Chief Immigration Judge Christopher A. Santoro immediately ordered administrators to take down the fliers, but the Justice Department later backtracked. The confusion reveals a lack of consensus among officials at a time when the nation requires a united front and organized response to this public health risk.
While anti-immigration policies aim to prioritize native-born Americans, they simultaneously place the entire nation at risk. As with all public health issues, those with few resources (like undocumented immigrants and people in poverty) need the most urgent support. Hopefully, the Trump administration will announce that anyone who needs treatment has the right to come forward—regardless of financial resources or citizenship status.
Contact Us for Additional Support
Are you afraid of seeking medical treatment due to the public charge ground of inadmissibility? Have you been denied vital resources during your asylum-seeking process? At Simon Law Group, PLLC, our attorneys want to help you retain access to the care and safety you need. We believe in your right to pursue a future in the United States, and we are ready to protect what matters most along the way.