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Immigrants, medical attention, and COVID-19

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The following is an important message shared in the newsletter of the Office of the Immigration Liaison of the City of San Antonio.

[Leer en español]

We’re aware a lot of undocumented residents in our community are afraid to seek medical help, even when they’re feeling sick.

The most important thing is the health of our community.  No matter your immigration status, you are a member of our city and don’t have to fear getting medical care.  This is especially important if you're feeling sick and have COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath.  But before you go to a medical clinic, please do one of the following three options:
Call your doctor and have them evaluate you over the phone. They will tell you if you should go to the office for an in person evaluation;

If you’re having trouble breathing, go to an emergency department. You cannot be turned away if you have a life-threatening emergency.

A lot of immigrants may be afraid of violating the "Public Charge" law. The “public charge” law was recently amended and entered into force on February 24. The law asks immigration officers to determine whether the person applying for a visa will need government assistance.  The law asks the officer to look at your entire situation and not just whether you used government benefits.  This means your age, education, language abilities and other factors will be reviewed at the time you apply.

However, the new law does not apply to the COVID-19 pandemic. The immigration agency published on its website a statement indicating that the “public charge” law will not be applied against people seeking medical attention for the purpose of preventing or treating a COVID-19 infection. The statement is at:

The government has also considered the negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and have stated that if an noncitizen lost their job, had to drop out of school, or received help because they were unable to work due to the coronavirus pandemic, immigration will give the opportunity to explain these circumstances at the time of filing for legal status.

It is important to know the new “public charge” law does NOT apply to those who have been granted lawful permanent residence (Green Card) or those who are applying for citizenship. It also does not apply to people who have to renew an expired Green Card.

No one should avoid seeking medical attention if they are feeling sick and have COVID-19 symptoms.  If you are concerned that you may have COVID-19, immediately call the Health Department hotline at 210-207-5779 or call 311. They can give you a preliminary evaluation over the phone.

If you don't have health insurance or a primary care provided, community clinics like CommunicareCentroMed, or University Health System can help. But you should call ahead before going to any of these clinics so that they can give you instructions on how to get help at their locations.

For more information from the City of San Antonio's Immigration Liaison, view or subscribe to their newsletter.


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