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PVD Councilor Espinal seeks Executive Order to prevent ICE enforcement at COVID-19 testing sites



There are many residents in Providence and around the State that are afraid to go get tested for COVID-19 due to their immigration status.

Providence City Councilmember Pedro Espinal (Ward 10) will introduce a resolution at Thursday evening’s city council meeting requesting that Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo pass an executive order to suspend immigration enforcement at COVID-19 testing and treatment sites.

“There are many residents in Providence and around the State that are afraid to go get tested for COVID-19 due to their immigration status,” said Espinal in a press release. “In the face of a global pandemic we should ensure that every person, regardless of their immigration status, be able to access testing and treatment without fear of being arrested by a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer. Through the Governor’s power of an executive order she can help ensure the safety of our immigrant population, and give those residents the confidence and security they need to seek testing or treatment. This community is at greater risk of communal spread because of fear and lack of understanding. We must do all we can to protect every resident of our great State regardless of their nation of origin or their immigration status.”

Testing for COVID-19 is critical in stopping the spread of the virus as it assists healthcare professionals in quarantining positive cases and contact tracing to identify other individuals who may have been exposed. The fear of immigration enforcement has had a chilling effect on the immigrant community coming forward to be tested, maintains Espinal, increasing the likelihood of positive cases remaining undetected and spreading the virus further than it otherwise would.

Last week, during her daily COVID-19 press briefing, Governor Raimondo assured undocumented residents that “there are no immigration officials at any of these testing sites, even though they look official and there are people in uniforms.” What Espinal is seeking is an executive order, giving Raimondo’s assurances the force of law.

Councilman Espinal and the members of the Providence City Council are urging Governor Raimondo to sign an executive order preventing any immigration enforcement activities in and around COVID-19 testing sites, hospitals, or other healthcare facilities. By doing so, says Espinal, she will give residents the knowledge that they are safe when they seek medical assistance during this pandemic.

[Partly from a press release]

Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.