FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Sat. March 14, 2020

The Virginia Interfaith Center calls on Governor Northam to make hospitals “immigration enforcement-free zones” to protect our undocumented neighbors during this public health crisis

“We are facing a time of great challenge. We call for our leaders to show moral courage to care for the human beings in our community. Documented or undocumented, we are in this together. Allow the doctors and medical professionals to do their jobs without the added concern of a cruel system that will add another layer of complication.” Rev. Julio Hernandez, Board Member, Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy

RICHMOND, VA – This week Governor Northam declared a state of emergency in response to the rapid spread of coronavirus in the Commonwealth. For our undocumented neighbors, this health crisis poses an extra risk: the fear that their immigration status may be questioned if they seek care in a hospital or clinic. Many are fearful because U.S. Customs and Border Protection has a track record of conducting immigrant raids and enforcement at hospitals.

The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP) calls upon the Governor to ensure that everyone has access to Virginia hospitals and health care facilities by making these facilities “immigration enforcement-free zones.”

Governor Northam said, “Our top priority is to make sure Virginians stay safe and healthy, and that our response to this situation leaves no one behind.” If people are sick and fear getting tested or treated, they will be left behind. If the Governor does not act to protect immigrants at health facilities, the virus will continue to spread and jeopardize the health of millions of Virginians.

More than 800 health and human rights experts sent a letter to the President urging the federal government to make hospitals and healthcare facilities “immigration enforcement-free zones.” The letter states, “The COVID-19 (coronavirus) response should not be linked to immigration enforcement in any manner. It will undermine individual and collective health if individuals do not feel safe to utilize care and respond to inquiries from public health officials…These policies should be clearly and unequivocally articulated to the public by the federal, state, and local governments.”

As the coronavirus is spreading in Virginia, VICPP urges federal and state officials to release coronavirus updates in several languages and ensure that health facilities will be available to everyone, regardless of their immigration status. VICPP’s petition campaign calls on Gov. Northam to take action.

Media contact:
Roberta Oster
Communications Director
Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy
cell: 804-615-4192