LA officials assure immigrants ‘public charge’ rule will not be a major issue during pandemic

LOS ANGELES — As home to one of the largest immigrant populations in the country, the LA County Office of Immigrant Affairs wants to make sure the community knows about their rights and benefits amid the coronavirus pandemic.

LA County officials assured immigrants that they can avail of services — from health to housing, regardless of their immigration status.

Last month, immigrants that were sick were considered a burden to the US and their health conditions were counted against them when they applied for permanent residency. But immigration officials said any immigrant who gets tested or treated for coronavirus will not be affected by the public charge rule.

The Department of Homeland Security has clarified that any preventive care, testing, or treatment related to COVID-19 will not be considered in the public charge test.

The county’s briefings to the immigrant communities come with May Day only a few weeks away. Advocates are unsure if the traditional marches, which draws tens of thousands, will take place this year.

Regardless of how that day pans out, immigrant right groups said they will make sure to continue their campaigns especially on issues such as public charge rule and comprehensive immigration reform, especially in times of crisis.

“It may be really looking more towards advocacy, making sure immigrant rights like paid sick days are protected and access to health care, but we are in conversation with the other groups but we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen yet,” said Aqui Soriano Versoza.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, is also changing the way it prioritizes arrests.

ICE had recently announced that it is adjusting its enforcement procedures, targeting only those they consider “dangerous,” and not making arrests near medical facilities.

Similar to what they did in the Obama era, just doing less of it — focusing on individuals who have criminal records. They’re not totally stopping their enforcement efforts.

As civil rights groups call for the release of immigration detainees, ICE has also confirmed that one Mexican national in detention had tested positive for the virus.

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