What Happens If Undocumented Immigrants Get Infected With Coronavirus? NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro speaks with community organizer Glo Choi of the HANA Center in Chicago about undocumented workers who won't receive protection under the coronavirus relief package.

What Happens If Undocumented Immigrants Get Infected With Coronavirus?

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The $2 trillion COVID-19 emergency bill is the largest ever stimulus measure. It will put cash into the hands of most Americans. But there's one group of people that won't be getting a check. Undocumented workers, including those who pay taxes, won't be eligible for federal help. And the bill didn't offer any extra protections to undocumented workers, the ones working in factories and in the fields, if they get sick. Joining us now is Glo Choi, a community organizer with the HANA Center, an immigrant rights organization in Chicago. Good morning.

GLO CHOI: Good morning, Lulu. Pleasure to be on here.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We're happy to have you. Can you give me your reaction to the stimulus bill?

CHOI: Yes, I think it does not go far enough for neither Americans nor undocumented immigrants. There are well over 11 million undocumented immigrants in this nation, all of whom are working as the backbone of this nation on the front lines. And they contribute their fair share. And yet they see zero benefits. COVID-19 is something that is affecting every single person within the bounds of this nation. And undocumented immigrants are continuing to work. They have zero relief. And it's a very challenging time.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And often, the undocumented community works in the fields getting food on the American table, in the service industries, cleaning houses and other places. So they are being hit particularly hard by layoffs, are they not?

CHOI: Absolutely. For example, my mother works in the service industry. She cooks, and it's been very hard hit with next to zero customers. And that means no money for rent. That means no money for food. I do what I can to provide my own personal relief to my family, but I think that story is something that is replicated across the nation in that we are all working so hard, and yet we're not seeing any sign of relief.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We should say, I think, at this point that you are also undocumented.

CHOI: That's correct. So I have personal lived experiences through this. Also, being a community organizer, I also see undocumented people across Chicagoland area who are facing this.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what are people telling you in your community and through your outreach work? I mean, what are the fears that they've been speaking about?

CHOI: Well, I think what COVID-19 had done is it's exacerbated the fears that have always remained, which is that people don't have access to health care. People are terrified that if they get sick, they won't be able to afford the care that would be necessary to just live a basic and decent life. And, of course, within the East Asian community, people have also been facing discrimination in terms of being glared at, people being spit on, people hearing really nasty things because of racialized fears of COVID-19.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And if people do get sick in the undocumented community and they think that they may have contracted the coronavirus, will they go for testing? Will they seek treatment if they get really sick? Because Medicaid does not cover the undocumented.

CHOI: That's correct. Will they? I hope so. There are hospitals here in the Chicagoland area that accept people regardless of status, regardless of ability to pay, regardless of if they have an ID to show. There are few hospitals that will accept people, and then they'll allow for payment plans. But, you know, that kind of doesn't get to the core point, which is that people don't have equitable access to health care that wouldn't put them in financial dire straits.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Glo Choi, a community organizer with the HANA Center in Chicago.

Thank you very much.

CHOI: Thank you.

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