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The Unsung Story of Undocumented Immigrants and The Novel Coronavirus

The novel (COVID-19) Coronavirus has become a serious threat around the world. Originating from Wuhan, Hubei Province in China, it has spread to many countries in the world. As of 25 February 2020, there are over 80,000 cases reported globally and over 2,859 deaths. Presently, there are over 53 official reports in the United States.

Despite the official rates, there is a more significant danger, especially among undocumented immigrants in the United States. Undocumented immigrants are those born outside of the United States but presently living in the United States without authorization. As of 2017, the estimated count of undocumented immigrants was over 10.5 million, which accounts for about 8 percent of the total U.S population.

It is widely acknowledged that the health care system in the United States recognizes that immigration status is a social determinant of health. Therefore, being undocumented is often associated with multiple social and mental health conditions interlinked with limited employment opportunities, limited access to health insurance, and poverty. Because undocumented immigrants are at high risk of being uninsured, not eligible for federally sponsored health programs (e.g., Medicare), and are often plagued with poverty, they face discrimination in health care systems. They may preferably go without much-needed health care facilities until their situation is critical.

In this growing pandemic, such actions are alarming because there is a higher risk of spreading the COVID-19 infection, and most may even succumb to the virus without being adequately documented. Since they are undocumented in the U.S database, tracing them and those who they might have had contact with will be challenging. The immigration policies different government administrations have done nothing but substantially increase fears and distrust among immigrants in the United States. Such perceptions of the health care system in the United States will further disrupt the ability to contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus. Besides the issues with access to health care, most immigrant populations live in overcrowded conditions with a lack of sanitation.

Therefore aggressive measures should be taken to increase awareness about the necessary protection against the virus. Civil society organizations, NGOs, and the government should prioritize migrant communities as part of the Coronavirus preparations and control programs. Policies governing the health care systems in the United States should be modified to accommodate the undocumented immigrant population. However, these response systems should ensure that stigmatization and discrimination are fought against.

In these times, the response systems for Coronavirus should provide avenues for people (undocumented or not) to report their symptoms and receive health care without fear of deportation or arrest by ICE. Overall, a heavy focus on migration elements is necessary to fight the spread of the Coronavirus.

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