National Security

DHS encourages vaccination regardless of immigration status


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Monday said it would not conduct enforcement activities near COVID-19 vaccination sites as a way to encourage immigrants to seek the vaccine regardless of their status.

“It is a moral and public health imperative to ensure that all individuals residing in the United States have access to the vaccine,” the agency wrote in a release. “DHS is committed to ensuring that every individual who needs a vaccine can get one, regardless of their immigration status.”

According to the release, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not conduct enforcement operations near vaccine distribution sites or clinics.

The announcement did not make any changes in how DHS detainees would be vaccinated.

Under the Trump administration, ICE said it would work to ensure the vaccine was available but was criticized for not having a timeline for doing so. 

Some Republicans have expressed opposition to vaccinating immigrants.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) caused a stir after suggesting the state’s meatpacking workers were not undocumented and therefore would not have trouble securing the vaccine. 

“You’re supposed to be a legal resident of the country to be able to be working in those plants,” he said. “So I do not expect that illegal immigrants will be part of the vaccine with that program.”

Though legal status is not required to secure a vaccine, Rickett’s communications director later clarified that the state “is going to prioritize citizens and legal residents ahead of illegal immigrants.”

— Updated 8:01 p.m.

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