Those who need or want to participate in community testing for COVID-19 should not expect officials to ask about their immigration status, members of the Janesville Police Department’s Latino advisory committee said.
Police Chief Dave Moore said during Wednesday’s meeting of the Latino Liaison Advisory Committee that his officers’ only job during community COVID-19 testing is to help the flow of traffic.
“We weren’t down there checking IDs. We weren’t checking immigration status or any of those things,” Moore said. “I understand the fear, but that simply was not our (role).
“In the course of our officers’ duty, we don’t check immigration status,” he also said. “Whether it’s a consensual contact out in the field, a vehicle stop, call for service, any type of contact, that’s not an issue that we’re vetting for.”
Any check on immigration status comes much further in the criminal justice process, such as incarceration or booking, the chief said. He still cautioned against driving without a license, regardless of immigration status.
René Bue, who chairs the committee, said she tried to spread the word that interpreters were available during recent public testing at Dawson Ball Fields in Janesville.
Bue said she didn’t meet many Spanish speakers when she was there, but she said she heard questions from them about what questions would be asked or if a Social Security number was needed. She also heard concerns from those who didn’t go who were worried about police presence or how their information would be used.
She said she was making a “big push” to let people know about free drive-thru testing that started Wednesday at Blackhawk Technical College, 6004 S. County G. The testing runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays until Dec. 10—with the exception of Veterans Day, Nov. 11, and Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26.
Ginna Isunza, director of the YWCA Rock County’s Immigrant Outreach Program, said she had heard similar fears from her clients.
“The most important thing is for you to get tested,” she said.
Bue said the “whole process was so smooth and so easy.” She asked the people she interpreted for if they would let their friends and family know about the testing, how easy it was and that there was no nonmedical reason to be afraid.
“Word of mouth is a powerful form of communication for the Spanish-speaking community,” she said. “One of the first people I interpreted for had heard about somebody’s brain being punctured while they had the test done, and so he was so nervous.
“Please tell your friends and family that no one’s brain is getting punctured, and that you can feel safe coming here.”
Laura Piña, a UW-Whitewater student, said one concern she has heard is what happens if someone tests positive.
“What assures them that they’ll be able to go back to their jobs if they’re unable to go back and have to quarantine?” she asked, rephrasing the question she has heard.
Bue said she got that question, too, but she added that “how each employer handles that is going to be different.” She said she knows people, not only Latinos, who have kept working after testing positive out of fear of losing their jobs.
Moore said it’s important to follow orders about quarantining after testing positive, “because we really need to keep everybody safe.
“To the degree that we can, we need to follow these orders,” he said.