Hospitals safe from ICE, attorneys say


Illustration of the virus that causes Covid-19 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As fear spreads along with the coronavirus, local attorneys say one thing no one should have to worry about is walking into Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody inside a hospital or clinic.

The Immigrant Legal Center, which services area refugees, undocumented people and other immigrants, said many have asked its attorneys whether ICE can arrest them for seeking healthcare. The legal resource wanted to dispel those rumors saying ICE “should not” be inside those buildings. People regardless of citizenship status should access healthcare if they need it.

“We have reason to believe ICE is following its sensitive locations memo,” read an email from the legal resource. “We have asked for the community to share information with us if they observe ICE doing any enforcement action at or near a healthcare facility.  Healthcare facilities do not share patient information to ICE and many take steps to prevent ICE enforcement at or near their facility. ”

In early March, the federal agency said it does not make arrests at sensitive locations such as hospitals, schools and places of worship “without prior approval for an exemption, or in exigent circumstances.”

“It is important for the public to know that ICE does not conduct operations at medical facilities, except under extraordinary circumstances,” read the statement released earlier this month.

Those reasons include threats to national security, terrorism, imminent risk of death or harm to people or property and imminent dangers to public safety. But attorneys with the Immigrant Legal Center don’t see the federal agency stepping in as it’s prioritizing public health.

“It is in everyone’s best interest that folks with symptoms get tested and treated and immigration authorities are in agreement with that message,” the legal resource said in an email.

In addition to concerns about accessing healthcare, the office is trying to breakdown how the $2.2 trillion stimulus package passed last week will benefit their clients. While the law promises $1,200 to individual Americans, double that if you and your partner filed taxes as a couple, as well as $500 per child, its unknown share will go to immigrants, especially those who fall outside the typical tax structure.

“Certain work authorized immigrants with valid Social Security numbers will stand to benefit from the CARES Act’s individual rebate,” Immigrant Legal Center said. “The CARES Act’s intersection with immigration is complicated, and experts are still researching its reach across the immigrant community.”


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