The Impact of Coronavirus on Immigration
With new reports of individuals infected with the virus on the rise daily, the immigration system at large has begun to feel the effects. USCIS has started shutting down offices, causing further delays in case processing.
USCIS closed its Seattle Field Office on March 3rd after learning one of its officers visited a Care Center that later confirmed had suffered and outbreak. Many applicant were unaware of the field office shut down and showed up for their scheduled appointments. The Seattle office is known for being one of the slowest to process naturalization cases, the average processing time being between one year and three months.
Hospitals and health care facilities have been asked to make their facilities “immigration enforcement-free zones” so that immigrants can receive adequate medical services without the fear of immigration enforcement. In those “zone” Immigration agents will not carry out enforcement initiatives like arrests, interviews or searches.
The Trump administration has not yet made the healthcare facilities enforcement-free zones.
Under the new public charge rule, any immigrant applying for a green card can be denied if they use or might use government benefits , including Medicaid and other health programs. Several attorneys asked DHS to delay enforcing the new public charge rule (which went into effect on February 24th) due to the coronavirus outbreak. Many feel the public charge rule undermines the health agency’s efforts to contain the spread of the outbreak.