Senate Democrats on Thursday sought assurances from Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, that his department would not interfere with undocumented immigrants seeking medical attention.
“This is a public health and safety issue that, if anything else, puts all of our communities at risk,” Senator Jacky Rosen, Democrat of Nevada, said. “Will the department refrain from apprehending individuals based solely on their immigration status while they’re seeking care?”
Mr. Cuccinelli said ICE does not conduct enforcement at health care facilities “absent single case exigent circumstances.”
But immigrant advocates say that stepped-up enforcement could deter people from seeking medical care.
On Wednesday, nine Democratic senators wrote a letter to President Trump and members of his coronavirus task force urging the agency to halt civil immigration enforcement in or around health care facilities.
The senators also requested that Homeland Security publicly state that the administration’s new wealth test, known as the public charge rule, would not penalize immigrants who receive treatment for coronavirus symptoms by labeling them “public charges,” thus barring their paths to green cards.
“We cannot allow the fear this ill-considered rule creates to scare families away from getting the help that they may need if they come into contact with people,” with the coronavirus, the Democrats said in the letter.
Reporting was contributed by Mike Baker, Rick Gladstone, Katie Robertson, Vindu Goel, Melissa Eddy, Michael Wolgelenter, Marc Santora, Niki Kitsantonis, Mitch Smith, Sarah Mervosh, Davey Alba, Tiffany May, Claire Fu, Elaine Yu, Farah Stockman, Ed Shanahan, Neil Vigdor, Lauretta Charlton, James Gorman, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Matt Richtel, Mitch Smith, Amy Harmon, Michael Gold, Ben Dooley, Richard Pérez-Peña, Azi Paybarah, Joseph Goldstein and Kirk Johnson.