Democrats worry ‘public charge rule’ will impact coronavirus spread

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Some lawmakers fear legal immigrants who cannot afford to pay for coronavirus testing and treatment will forgo health care out of fear over the “public charge rule,” which would impact their ongoing immigration cases.

But the Department of Homeland Security denies this is a public health concern.

“The public charge rule was put in place to discourage immigrants who might need public services and that includes Medicaid,” said Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nevada.

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Democrats including Titus are concerned some immigrants might not get tested or treated for coronavirus if they can’t afford it.

“If people are afraid that they might lose their status — might lose their green card if they go to get health care,” she said.

If people are not tested or treated for coronavirus, it will spread further in communities around the country, increasing the expected death toll. The director of the CDC told lawmakers the possible impact of the public charge rule is a concern.

“We are looking at it to see its public health implication,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield.

But Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli disagrees. In a hearing earlier this week, Cuccinelli told Titus he does not think the public charge rule should be suspended in reaction to the coronavirus.

“Because it’s completely unrelated,” said Cuccinelli. “Anyone seeking help or testing or health care related to the coronavirus does not affect a public health analysis.”

Democrats say they want a commitment in writing that coronavirus assistance will not be used against people in their immigration proceedings.

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