Health and public policy experts talk about how to protect ourselves during this period of the pandemic
Undocumented immigrants affected by the coronavirus are not at risk of being arrested by immigration agents when they request medical services, while access to health will not be considered a public charge when applying for a permanent residency or certain non-immigrant visas.
“The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has said it will not take immigration enforcement actions in clinics and hospitals against undocumented immigrants,” Jackie Vimo, public policy analyst for the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), said during a teleconference on the coronavirus organized by Ethnic Media Services, in which public health officials, health professionals and legal experts participated.
She also stressed that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has already declared that the public charge rule will not apply to those seeking medical treatment and services related to COVID-19. The public charge allows denial of residence to those who have received certain public benefits.
Vimo established that beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) that are in effect in these programs and have a social security number qualify to receive $1,200 per person included in the COVID-19 stimulus package approved by Congress. In addition, they can apply for unemployment aid.
But she recommended that, when it comes to a couple who files taxes jointly, if one of them has an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), whomever is the legal resident or citizen should request the $1,200 aid individually.
Undocumented immigrants, even with an ITIN, are not eligible for the $1,200 aid in relief package approved by Congress.
The immigration status does not matter
Rigoberto Reyes, director of the Los Angeles County Immigrant Office, said that immigration status and ability to pay are not an obstacle to receiving preventive health care and tests related to the coronavirus.
My Health LA, the free health care program for low-income residents of Los Angeles County, does not restrict immigrants from receiving access, he said.
“We recommend that they contact 844-744-6452, before going in person, to receive information on how they should proceed,” he emphasized.
While undocumented immigrants don’t qualify for benefits like CalFresh food stamps, or cash aid programs like Calworks and other programs, they may qualify if they have children or other people in their families with their immigration papers in order.
He reminded people that Los Angeles County has just opened a help center for unemployed workers and business owners. For information, call: 1-800-593-8222.
You can report complaints of price manipulation, request free help for food, and report home evictions using that same number.
Reyes said that there is a ban on evictions from March 4th until May 4th.
How to Protect Yourself
Dr. Félix Aguilar, medical director of the Chinatown Service Center reminded people that the coronavirus only survives for a few hours, and not for days or weeks.
“It is not AIDS, it is not the plague or Ébola but something that can be killed with soap and water,” he stressed.
Who Is at Risk?
“Those with low defenses, the elderly, and smokers. Although deaths have occurred at any age,” he said.
Dr. Aguilar recommended that you wash your hands often, for 20 seconds, and remember to do the same when you get home.
His advice to Latino families where many people live, and cannot exercise social distance, is to frequently clean the house, wash their hands, and keep surfaces clean.
And if someone falls ill with coronavirus, he recommended keeping their distance, not sharing what they use, and using bandanas as face masks.
Symptoms of those with the coronavirus are: fever over 100.4 °F and shortness of breath.
Exercising helps improve mental and physical health during the coronavirus.
Dr. Lisseth Rojas Flores, an professor of Clinical Psychology at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, advised developing an action plan to care for mental health in times of the coronavirus.
Her recommendations include:
- Organize routines with a schedule of activities for the family, and especially for children, with times for school work, meals, chores, rest, and distraction.
- Waking up and going to sleep at regular times.
- Observe the children’s reactions to see if they are not isolating themselves, or are throwing tantrums, or crying. Listen to them, talk to them, and connect with them.
- Recognize your own fears and emotions, and develop a self-care plan with strategies to deal with those fears. Remember that chronic stress can have a long-term impact on health.
- Seek spiritual support, feed your soul, exercise, and only pay attention to good and credible information.