Any strategy to control COVID-19 requires the entire population to follow social distancing rules and to contact their doctor if they are ill. But this becomes a challenge for the undocumented, who, like everyone else, must work to support their families. However, they cannot receive help from federal aid programs, do not have health insurance, and cannot receive state unemployment benefits. How can we ask them to stay home and starve?

The old saying goes: A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. What is the point of creating plans related to social distancing, economic assistance and health, if we do not consider everyone who lives in the United States? To stop the advance of COVID-19 we need to involve all social sectors, and this must obviously include the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country.

Comprehensive care of this vulnerable group is in everyone’s best interest, but sadly this has numerous political obstacles.

The federal government approved the so-called CARES Act, the largest aid package in U.S. history, which seeks to alleviate the country’s economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This law offers support to individuals, companies, and local governments, and also expands unemployment insurance. A long-awaited provision of the law calls for checks to be mailed to the majority of Americans.

Although it is proven that many undocumented immigrants pay taxes, this group will not receive benefits from the CARES Act.

On , United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that all immigrants who have COVID-19-like symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath) and who seek medical treatment or necessary preventive services will not be negatively affected as part of the policy known as public charge.

This is not enough because the rest of the policy is still in effect– a policy that was designed to deter low-income immigrants who are trying to obtain a green card from using public assistance programs such as food stamps and housing vouchers.

North Carolina has responded with certain temporary relief measures. For example, there is a ban on suspending basic services for those who cannot pay, and schools are distributing food to students. However, there is still a lot to be done, especially if we compare this with programs implemented in other states like California or New York.

On , Portugal temporarily granted (until ) all citizenship rights to immigrants and asylum seekers living within its borders, thereby granting them full access to medical treatment in the event of a COVID-19 infection. Portugal knows that its plan to curb the coronavirus must include all sectors of society in order for it to be successful.

In the United States, the richest nation on the planet, immigrants are essential actors in the fight, response, and recovery that we will face in the coming months. Whether we like it or not, undocumented immigrants are indispensable in multiple essential sectors of the economy: in factories, on farms, in food production, in construction, cleaning houses, and caring for children and the elderly. How can we abandon them now, when we need them more than ever?

Diego Barahona A.

Periodista, editor, asesor, y presentador. De 2016 a 2019 el periodista más galardonado en Estados Unidos por los Premios José Martí. Autor del best seller: ¿Cómo leer a las personas?

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