King County Immigrant and Refugee Program
COVID-19 and Public Charge:
What Immigrant Communities
Need to Know
Immigrants who are subject to a public charge inadmissibility test when they apply for a visa or green card should know that USCIS announced it will NOT consider testing, treatment, or preventive care (including vaccines if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19 in the public charge assessment, even if the health care services are covered by Medicaid. This means that immigrant families should seek the care they need during this difficult time.
- It is best to see the doctor if you need care. There are laws in place to ensure your doctor honors your right to privacy. You do not need to share any information about your immigration status unless you apply for Medicaid or other health coverage.
- You can still see a doctor without medical insurance. This includes care you receive in the emergency room, at community and migrant health centers, free clinics, and public hospitals. If you don’t have a doctor, call a local community health center for assistance. You can find a health center here: https://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/
- Hospitals and health care spaces are safe to visit. Federal guidelines prohibit immigration agents from conducting arrests or other enforcement actions at health care facilities, such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, health clinics, and urgent care facilities except in limited circumstances.
- Eligibility for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces has not changed.
- Emergency Medicaid coverage has been expanded in Washington State to cover diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 and the Health Benefit Exchange has opened a special enrollment period through April 8, 2020.
CLICK HERE to learn more about your rights when accessing health services.
About the KCIR Program:
Immigrant and refugee rights are critical pillars of the King County Equity and Social Justice Strategic Plan. Ensuring that all King County residents have access to necessary services and benefits is essential for upholding our commitment to fair and equal access for all residents, especially those who have been marginalized.
In 2010 King County adopted an Equity and Social Justice Ordinance. More recently, in 2018, the County adopted an ordinance to enhance the trust and fairness for King County immigrant communities. This ordinance strengthened and clarified existing King County Code Section 2.15 and established King County as a leader in protecting the safety and rights of immigrants and refugees, establishing requirements for how its agencies, offices and employees are to provide services to immigrants.
Our Immigrant and Refugee Program is a result of our commitment to becoming more welcoming and inclusive. Our team works to make King County a leader in immigrant integration by ensuring that all of the county's residents have access to county programs and services regardless of their national origin, immigration status, English proficiency level. We also work in partnership with immigrant and refugee communities to develop our departments’ capacity to serve and protect immigrants and refugees and also to identify policy solutions that remove barriers to affordable housing, transit, health, economic opportunity and strong childhood development.
Keeping Our Communities Safe
Ordinance 18665, which was codified as K.C.C. § 2.15 – Citizenship and Immigration Status, was adopted with the purpose of enhancing trust and fairness for King County immigrant communities. It established requirements for how King County agencies, offices and employees provide services to immigrants, including translation assistance requirements for non-English speaking persons. Additionally, it set limitations for the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention’s honoring of federal administrative detainers, granting access to inmates and sharing information. This legislation provided for a complaint process and for the creation of an immigrant and refugee legal services fund.
Our Pledge to Building Inclusive Communities
More than 80 elected officials from throughout King County have signed a pledge to promote safe, welcoming, and inclusive communities – regardless of a person’s immigration or refugee status, race, religion, national origin, age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, housing status, veteran status, political ideology, ancestry, or any other social identity.
King County affirms that we are a welcoming community for all – including those who come here from other countries, yearning to be free. Read the pledge here, which includes a list of elected officials who have signed it.
Going Beyond the Pledge
In King County many of our cities have gone further and adopted ordinances and resolutions to ensure that our communities are kept safe.
Statements of Support
Language Equity Program Manager
King County Executive’s Office of Equity and Social Justice
401 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104