April 03, 2020

Warren Joins Bicameral Group of Lawmakers to Introduce Legislation that would Provide Critical Assistance to Vulnerable Communities Impacted by COVID-19

Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act Would Make Sure Everyone in Our Country Can Access Critical Resources During the Coronavirus Crisis; Legislation Would Suspend Policies that Discourage Immigrant Families from Using Essential Services, Ensure Everyone Has Access to COVID-19 Testing and Treatment, Expand Language Access Programs, and Codify Access to Coronavirus Relief Measures for Vulnerable Communities

Text of Bill (PDF) | Bill One Pager (PDF)

Washington, DC -- United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai’i) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Representatives Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), and Lou Correa (D-Calif.), to unveil legislation to ensure that everyone in the United States – especially those in vulnerable communities – can access health care and other critical resources during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.


The Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act would, among other provisions, help ensure that all communities are able to access COVID-19 testing and treatment, and other relief services provided in coronavirus relief legislation. It would provide dedicated funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct outreach in multiple languages to hard-to-reach populations to ensure that vulnerable communities have access to COVID-19 relief measures and critical public health information.


The bill would also temporarily modify immigration policies that deter immigrants from receiving the medical care they need throughout the coronavirus pandemic, such as the public charge rule. This rule has had a widespread chilling effect, discouraging individuals in immigrant communities--even those not subject to the rule--from seeking health care and other critical services due to confusion and fear about the rule’s impact.


Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) co-sponsored the legislation.


A broad coalition of organizations support the Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act, including the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), National Immigration Law Center (NILC), National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), Tahirih Justice Center, United We Dream (UWD), Center for American Progress, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, Casa de Esperanza, Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, CCLA Inc., California Immigrant Policy Center, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), Japanese American Citizens League, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF), Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates, and Central American Resource Center (CARECEN-LA).


Congress has acted swiftly to provide significant resources for coronavirus-related testing, medical care, and other services, indicate that fear and confusion is deterring immigrants from seeking medical care for coronavirus due to continuing immigration enforcement actions and the public charge rule. This chilling effect continues despite U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) announcement that obtaining coronavirus testing or treatment will not count as a penalty under the public charge rule. Congress also provided urgently-needed cash relief for lower-income Americans, but did not include immigrant taxpayers who file taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). In 2015, 4.35 million people paid over $13.7 billion in net taxes using an ITIN, according to the American Immigration Council.


To help ensure that these critical services and resources are available to everyone in the United States, the Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act would, among other things:


  • Modify immigration policies that would deter immigrants from seeking health services for the duration of the coronavirus emergency and for 60 days after the emergency ends, including suspending the public charge rules, in-person ICE checks, the immigration detention and deportation of survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking who have pending immigration applications; and suspending immigration enforcement actions at or in transit to/from sensitive locations, such as hospitals, courthouses, domestic violence shelters, and other sensitive locations.

  • Ensure that everyone has access to COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccines by providing Medicaid coverage of COVID-19-related services to everyone, regardless of immigration status; and prohibiting discrimination in any program funded by a coronavirus relief bill based on actual or perceived immigration status.

  • Provide $100 million for the CDC to provide language access and public outreach on coronavirus preparedness, response, and recovery to hard-to-reach populations—including minorities, those with limited English proficiency, and those with disabilities.

  • Ensure access to COVID-19 relief measures for vulnerable communities by allowing immigrant taxpayers to access cash relief benefits with an ITIN; and automatically extending expiring work authorization for immigrants during the coronavirus emergency for the same time period as was previously authorized.

Senator Warren has been a champion for immigrants, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  • In early March, she led a letter urging the Trump Administration to suspend all immigration enforcement actions in and around hospitals and other medical facilities. 

  • She recently joined her colleagues in a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), ICE, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) pushing for the release of vulnerable and low-risk detained persons from DHS custody as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise. She and her colleagues previously wrote to DHS, ICE, and CBP asking about their plans to prepare for the possible spread of COVID-19 within DHS facilities. 

  • On March 11, she sent a letter with Senator Markey raising concerns about the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) handling of COVID-19 prevention efforts in the immigration courts. Senator Warren later urged DOJ to close all immigration courts to prevent the spread of the virus. 

  • She has also introduced the Prioritizing Pandemic Prevention Act (S. 3510), legislation to defund the border wall and direct those funds to combating COVID-19.