Immigrant Access to Care

Last Updated: February 24, 2020

*While this page often uses the term “immigrant,” AAPCHO recognizes the distinct differences between the experiences of asylum seekers, immigrants, migrants and refugees and tailors our efforts and resources accordingly.

At AAPCHO, we believe health care is a right not a privilege—and that all people must have access to affordable quality care, regardless of language, culture, immigration status and ability to pay. AAPCHO supports comprehensive immigration reform that fixes our legal immigration backlogs, provides opportunities for immigrants to earn U.S. citizenship, and eliminates waiting-periods and other restrictions to health care for immigrants. We advocate for programs and policies that eliminate barriers and provide access to all.

The current administration’s policy focus, threats and rhetoric have highlighted immigration issues, often falsely painting foreign-born communities as “takers.” To push back against this harmful agenda, AAPCHO will continue to prioritize the safety, access and rights of AAPCHO member patients, particularly currently targeted communities including foreign-born and/or religious minorities.

In response to the numerous threats to immigrant patients’ safety, access, and rights—and to address the needs of AAPCHO members, Asian Americans (AAs), Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPIs), and all communities we serve—AAPCHO’s immigrant access to care work falls into four important areas:

  1. Addressing Public Charge
  2. Protecting Immigrant Access and Eligibility
  3. Monitoring Enforcement at Health Centers
  4. Combating Fears

We are proud to partner in this work with organizations such as the Asian Americans Advancing JusticeCaliforniaHealth+California Primary Care AssociationCenter for Law and Social PolicyNational Council of Asian Pacific AmericansNational Immigration Law Center (NILC), and others to advance the needs of our centers and patients.

Addressing Public Charge

The Trump administration has issued a proposed regulation that expands the definition of “public charge” and puts the health and well-being of immigrant families at risk. Although there have been no finalized changes in the administration’s designation of “public charge,” at the moment, this proposed regulation has instilled fears of change in public charge designation. The new rule would force immigrant families to choose between basic needs like health care and keeping their loved ones together. We call on the administration to rescind this proposal to ensure that immigrant patients and families are not put at risk. AAPCHO has been working to combat the proposed regulation on public charge and address fears of these changes impacting patients’ access to care. We have been working to strengthen connections to key legislators and state-level administrators in the case of a public charge issue, and collaborating with fellow stakeholders in immigration and health advocacy.


AAPCHO, with our members and other national, state and local partners, works to advocate against any threats to the health and well-being of Asian American (AA), Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI), and other vulnerable communities served at community health centers that would be disproportionately impacted by detrimental changes to public charge policy. AAPCHO has been working to strengthen connections to key legislators and state-level administrators and collaborating with fellow stakeholders in immigration and health advocacy to advocate against an expansion of public charge.

AAPCHO is also a member of multiple coalitions united in opposition to public charge:


As representatives of America’s health centers and the 28 million patients they serve, we work to ensure access to quality and affordable health care for all in need. The health center model and mission is to ensure access to affordable health care so that all individuals can contribute to their communities and reach their full potential. As currently drafted, this proposed rule is in direct contrast to this mission.



Come back often as we update this page with the latest information and resources. If you have questions or would like more information related to public charge, contact us at

Protecting Immigrant Access and Eligibility

At the moment, there have been no changes to the access to care and benefit programs for immigrant, refugee, and Compact of Free Association (COFA) migrant patients. AAPCHO is committed to ensuring no erosion of immigrant access to benefits under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and other benefits like SNAP, CTC, etc. We must also correct the narrative of immigrant communities as “takers” and demonstrate the contributions of immigrant families, working with data showing that investment in immigrant families is better for all families long-term, saves money and contributes to public health overall. Finally, we are working with many partners to secure a DREAM Act which allows for dignity and health for DACAmented and undocumented individuals and the communities which support them.



Monitoring Enforcement in Health Centers

Given increased threats of enforcement action in and around health centers, AAPCHO has been working to help member health centers, other AA and NHPI-serving health centers, and clinic patients to protect themselves against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids. This includes making sure that patients know their rights and clinics understand and are able to protect and prepare against any issues if needed. Clinics and other spaces have specific protections, such as “sensitive locations” policies, and we have been working to support these protections so that patients feel safe to receive the care that they need. In addition, we are hearing increased reports of ICE detainment and deportation proceedings, with Cambodian and Vietnamese individuals, in particular, being targeted and rounded up. AAPCHO will continue to monitor these increased threats and work with our members and partners to ensure patient and community members are safe and have access to the resources and services they need.



Combating Fears

AA, NHPI, and other communities we serve have seen an increase in harmful rhetoric, refugee and anti-Muslim hate. Increased anti-immigrant rhetoric and threats of large-scale ICE deportation raids have led to intensifying fear and anxiety among the AA and NHPI community as well as other immigrant communities. Fears of personal safety, and risks or challenges with mental health and resilience are the reality for many community members, sometimes but not always connected to specific fears of deportation or benefits. We have been working to strengthen AAPCHO members and similar health centers as places of care to support mental health and trauma-informed care, and to find ways to address fears as they arise, in coordination with external policy triggers or specific issues like ACA enrollment.


  • Mental Health and Resilience in AA&NHPI-serving Health Centers Webinar: Recording and Slides (Sept 19, 2017)