Category Archives: May 2020

HEAL Act Expands Access to Health Care Regardless of Immigration Status

May 20, 2020

– Hayley Burgess, National Immigration Law Center, 202-805-0375, [email protected]
– Nikki Metzgar, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, 202-599-7642, [email protected]

The HEAL Act Expands Access to Health Care Regardless of Immigration Status

Legislation sponsored by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) marks bill’s first-ever Senate introduction

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Health Equity and Access under the Law (HEAL) for Immigrant Women and Families Act to expand immigrants’ access to crucial and comprehensive health care, with support from more than 250 organizations. This year marks the bill’s first-ever introduction in the Senate, and it comes at a time when it is abundantly clear that health coverage and care are critical for every person, family, and community.

The HEAL Act would open access to care by removing the five-year bar that immigrants must wait before becoming eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). It would enable undocumented immigrants to purchase health insurance plans from the online marketplace made available by the Affordable Care Act and restore Medicaid eligibility to Compact of Free Association (COFA) migrants.

Insured rates are considerably lower among non–U.S. citizens, including both documented and undocumented immigrants. Barriers to health coverage disproportionately harm immigrant women, who make up the majority of immigrants and are particularly likely to have low incomes and be young and uninsured. According to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly half of noncitizen immigrant women of reproductive age who would otherwise qualify for Medicaid are uninsured.

“COVID-19 has shined a punishing light on the unjust health care inequities that exist for communities of color broadly, and immigrant communities in particular,” said U.S. Senator Cory Booker. “While we should always be working to expand access to health care for everyone, the dire current situation highlights the urgency of addressing these gaps in health care coverage. Health care is a right, and it shouldn’t depend on immigration status. We’re never going to be able to slow and stop the spread of the virus if we continue to deny entire communities access to testing, treatment, or care.”

“If it isn’t affordable, then health care just isn’t accessible. For years, policy decisions about our health have forced immigrant women to fend for ourselves,” said Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. “Now, more than ever, it’s clear that every person should be able to get health care no matter how long they have been in the U.S. or the status they have been granted. Asian American and Pacific Islander women have been leading the charge for this groundbreaking legislation because our lived experiences show that access to the health care that is central to our agency and our lives, our families, and our communities.”

“Everyone needs access to the full range of reproductive health care to live with dignity and thrive. The current pandemic has placed a spotlight on the inequities in healthcare access that many Latinas/xs, people of color, people with low incomes and im/migrants face,” said Ann Marie Benitez, senior director of government relations at National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice. “At the Latina Institute, we are proud to have been in the forefront among the leaders driving the push for the HEAL for Immigrant Women and Families Act, and we applaud Sen. Cory Booker for introducing this bold legislation that would extend healthcare coverage to all im/migrant families, regardless of their documentation status or how long they have been living in the U.S. Healthcare is a human right, and the HEAL for Immigrant Women and Families Act is a step forward in expanding healthcare coverage.”

“The current pandemic has emphasized that while Black immigrants continue to risk their lives at the frontlines of the crisis, many are unable to access lifesaving testing and treatment. The HEAL for Immigrant Women and Families Act moves us closer to rightfully seeing healthcare as a human right rather than a luxury,” said Catherine Labiran, Gender Justice Program coordinator at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. “Not only does the five-year waiting period for Medicaid result in the manifestation of preventable medical conditions, it also impacts the quality of care that people receive after that point. With a lack of medical history in the U.S., many experience misdiagnoses and have to advocate for themselves so that their concerns are heard and acted upon.”

“In these difficult times, it is abundantly clear that our personal health and well-being are interdependent with our neighbors’, coworkers’, and society’s at large,” said Kamal Essaheb, deputy director of the National Immigration Law Center. “NILC is proud to support the HEAL Act and hold it up as an example of the kind of policy solutions Congress should be passing right now. Protecting the health and well-being of immigrants will ensure the health and well-being of us all.”

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The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) is the only multi-issue, progressive, community organizing and policy advocacy organization for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and girls in the U.S. NAPAWF’s mission is to build collective power so that all AAPI women and girls can have full agency over our lives, our families, and our communities.

National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice (the Latina Institute) is the only national reproductive justice organization dedicated to building Latina/x power to advance health, dignity, and justice for 29 million Latinas/xs, their families, and communities in the United States through leadership development, community mobilization, policy advocacy, and strategic communications.

Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) educates and engages African American and Black immigrant communities to organize and advocate for racial, social and economic justice. Local BAJI Organizing Committees in New York, Georgia, California and Arizona build coalitions and initiate campaigns among communities to push for racial justice. At the local and regional level, BAJI provides training and technical assistance to partner organizations to develop leadership skills, works with faith communities to harness their prophetic voice, and initiates vibrant dialogues with African Americans and Black immigrants to discover more about race, our diverse identities, racism, migration and globalization.

Founded in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center is the leading advocacy or­ganization in the United States exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights and opportunities of low-income immigrants and their loved ones. NILC’s mission is grounded in the belief that everyone living in the U.S. — regardless of race, gen­der/gender identity, immigration, and economic status — should have equal access to justice, resources, and educational and economic opportunities that enable them to achieve their full human potential. NILC is committed to advancing its mission — which intersects race, immigration status, and class — through a racial, economic, and gender justice and equity orientation. NILC seeks to achieve just laws and policies that address systemic inequities, create narrative and culture change for an inclusive and equitable society, and build a healthier and more powerful movement.


NILC Statement Regarding $3 Trillion HEROES Act Relief Package

May 14, 2020

Email: [email protected]
Juan Gastelum, 213-375-3149
Hayley Burgess, 202-805-0375

National Immigration Law Center (NILC) Statement Regarding $3 Trillion HEROES Act Relief Package

WASHINGTON — Tomorrow, the U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, a $3 trillion package to provide additional economic relief amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Kamal Essaheb, deputy director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“Tomorrow, the House is set to vote on its fifth COVID-19 relief bill, which would finally give crucial relief to immigrant communities that were unacceptably left out before.

“This bill is an important step toward recognizing that the only way we’ll get through this crisis and rebuild stronger is if everyone, including immigrants, has access to the financial and health care support they need. This bill provides for access to free COVID-19 testing and care as well as any eventual vaccines, and it provides that immigrant taxpayers previously left out in relief bills — including millions of spouses and parents of U.S. citizens — will finally receive stimulus checks.

“The bill also provides that millions of immigrants, including those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and temporary protected status (TPS), continue to have protection from deportation and the ability to go to work, provide for their families, and help keep our communities running. Further, it would protect — and likely save — immigrant lives by seeking to release at least some of the tens of thousands of immigrants languishing in unsafe and inhumane civil detention custody.

“We recognize that the bill could have gone further in ensuring that immigrant communities can safely access health care and critical services — for example, by suspending the ‘public charge’ wealth test, stopping civil immigration actions that create fear and barriers to vital support, and prioritizing more people for release from detention. However, this bill takes important steps forward, and we call on Congress to move quickly and make sure these important provisions are part of any final relief bill.

“Every day, like so many Americans, people from our immigrant communities show up and play essential roles in caring for us through this unprecedented pandemic. We can no longer afford to wait for relief. The only way our country will get through this crisis is by ensuring that all Americans have the support and care we need, no matter what any of us looks like, how much money we make, or where we were born.”

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National and State Immigrants’ Rights Leaders and Meatpacking Workers and Their Families Come Together to Address Worker Safety Amidst COVID-19 Crisis

May 6, 2020

Hayley Burgess, [email protected], 202-805-0375
Hamp Price, TIRRC, [email protected]
Jack Norman, Voces, [email protected]

National and State Immigrants’ Rights Leaders and Meatpacking Workers and Their Families Come Together to Address Worker Safety Amidst COVID-19 Crisis

WASHINGTON, DC — In meatpacking plants across the country, immigrants and people of color are facing disproportionate COVID-19 infection rates as plants are increasingly confirmed hotspots for COVID-19. As essential workers who are on the frontlines confronting COVID-19, plant employees who are compelled to show up for work each day are at greater risk of occupational exposure and death from the virus. On a press call yesterday afternoon, national and state immigrants’ rights leaders came together with meatpacking workers and their families to address this ongoing crisis and outline the changes that government officials and corporations must make to ensure workers’ safety.

“This pandemic has exposed the historical racial inequities of our health, immigration, and labor/employment systems, which means that immigrants and other workers of color are impacted by COVID-19 on a greater scale. Workers have the right to be safe and healthy when reporting to work each day — not just during a crisis. When deprived of these rights, it affects everyone in the workplace. And as we are seeing now, it can have consequences to our supply chain and throughout the communities where meatpacking workers live,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “We cannot think of healthy employees and a resilient supply chain as two separate issues. We will continue to fight alongside workers to demand they receive access to health care, COVID-19 testing, treatment and care, as well as financial relief and protections in the workplace.”

Guadalupe Páez, a Wisconsin meat processing plant worker who recently recovered from COVID-19 said, “I’m angry at how I was treated, because they didn’t want to believe that I was sick, they just told me ‘you have a cold.’ It’s a message to my coworkers and other workers that we have to raise our voices so that our concerns are heard. I believe that we have a right to speak out, but there are many people who remain silent — but we have the right to speak out. My message to the workers is that your life is above work.”

“People are really afraid. You’re forcing them to make a choice between their life and this job. Workers see what’s happening, and in the case of Mr. Páez, his life was at stake,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera. “We need companies and the government to step up to support immigrant essential workers. Constant vigilance is required to do the follow-through and have the kind of public pressure and governmental agency support to fundamentally value the lives of these essential workers and their families. Today not only are we celebrating the fact that Mr. Páez and Dora (his daughter) are reunited as survivors, but because of their courage, right now, at both these companies all of the workers’ demands have been met. Their demands should be mandatory guidelines, and there should be mandatory guidelines about higher-quality masks and significant improvement in essential workplaces before we even talk about putting everybody back to work.”

“Workers in these plants are incredibly dedicated and work hard to provide for their families. Unfortunately, their employers have taken advantage of them and created a culture where workers are unsafe and feel they have no voice to speak up,” said Alejandro Murguia-Ortiz, an organizer on behalf of meatpacking workers and their families in Iowa. “Because of this, I and many of the children of these workers are hoping to bring awareness and support for them so we can hold these companies accountable and help empower workers  to share their stories.”

“Now more than ever, it is abundantly clear that our personal health and well-being are interdependent with our neighbors’, coworkers’, and communities’. This means no worker should have to put themselves at risk of getting ill in order to provide for their family,” said Stephanie Teatro, co-director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. “Workers in the food processing industry have always been essential, and we must ensure that all workers, no matter where they’re from or how they got here, are protected and safe at work.”


Recording of the press call:

The National Immigration Law Center’s (NILC’s) Winning in the States initiative aims to tangibly improve the lives of immigrants in the communities where they live and to help change the national narrative about immigration. NILC is investing in building power in these communities to accelerate the progress being made, and we are creating a structure for advocates across the country to share resources and support each other so that, together, we can ensure that every immigrant living in the United States can feel safe and supported in their community. Learn more at