Coronavirus illustration
Coronavirus illustration. Courtesy CDC

San Diego County elected officials and human rights and cultural nonprofits denounced xenophobia and racism Thursday, urging immigrant communities to seek medical attention if they are showing symptoms of novel coronavirus.

Documentation or immigrant status will not be checked while seeking treatment, and every person is entitled to medical care, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said.

“The services available out there are available to everyone,” he said. “Immigrants are a part of the fabric of American society. No one should be afraid of getting medical care if they need it.”

Healthcare providers in California are required to provide service regardless of legal status and highlight community healthcare providers that offer services in multiple languages and serve immigrant communities.

Fletcher acknowledged, however, that not everyone showing symptoms can be tested for COVID-19 with the current limited number of available tests locally and nationwide. Health officials say only those sick enough to go to the hospital should be getting tested, while any other symptomatic individuals should self-isolate.

San Diego City Council President Georgette Gomez addressed immigrant communities in Spanish before reminding, in English, that resources are available not only for medical treatment, but for unemployment and food support, as well.

“We know for a fact that this virus is hitting us all, but the most vulnerable communities are impacted the most,” she said. “Get tested. You will not be asked for documentation. We need to stand up and push back from hateful rhetoric.”

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, said it was vital to get that information to immigrant communities, from naturalized citizens to those without documentation.

“Your immigration status will not determine whether you can get tested,” she said. “You can get food from the food bank, your children can get lunch and breakfast from their schools. We have heard concerns about being a public charge, but you have paid into those programs.”

Gonzalez said rhetoric from Washington had caused worries to ripple through immigrant communities, but she assured them that these are programs they and their employers have paid into.

“You can access unemployment insurance without jeopardizing your future naturalization status,” she said. “These are important benefits you deserve.”

The COVID-19 Community Fund, which Fletcher launched with $1.3 million on Monday, will not screen applications for assistance for immigration status or coordinate in any way with federal immigration authorities. A combination of private individual donations and donations from businesses have increased the available amount in that fund to more than $4 million, she said.

Several nonprofit leaders said xenophobia and racism were taking a toll on communities.

“Whenever I hear `the Chinese virus,’ I roll my eyes,” said Lee Ann Kim, one of the founders of the San Diego Asian Film Festival. “These kind of tropes are baked into American culture. Xenophobia doesn’t solve problems, xenophobia only creates more problems.”

Ramla Sahid, executive director of the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans, said immigrants, naturalized Americans and those born in this country needed to come together to overcome the pandemic.

“This crisis has shown us that we are dependent on each other,” she said. “Only in standing united can we ensure our well-being.”

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