National Security

ACLU calls for COVID-19 vaccines for those in ICE detention

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is pushing the Biden administration to vaccinate everyone in immigration detention along with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) staff.

“Given the urgency posed by COVID-19 — including the introduction of new variants and continued outbreaks throughout detention centers across the country from increased population numbers — it is imperative that ICE act quickly to provide vaccines to all detained people and staff in all detention facilities nationwide,” the ACLU wrote in a letter to both Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and ICE acting Director Tae Johnson.

ICE data show nearly 16,000 people held in agency custody have contracted COVID-19 while being held in the close quarters of detention facilities, including nine who have died from the disease.

Johnson told lawmakers earlier this month that roughly 6 percent of detainees had received the vaccine. The ACLU said that pales in comparison with the Bureau of Prisons, which has now offered vaccines to all inmates in federal prisons.

“COVID-19 vaccines for ICE detainees are being allocated by local and state health departments, based on availability and the state’s vaccine implementation plan. Additionally, DHS’s Chief Medical Officer is rapidly working on scaling our own internal capability to vaccinate detainees in our care across the country,” an ICE spokesperson said in a statement, calling the agency “committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody.”

Mayorkas on Wednesday said the administration is weighing whether to vaccinate its detainees for COVID-19, something he said was “under review.”

—Updated at 4:54 p.m.

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Coronavirus coronavirus vaccine COVID-19 vaccine Immigration Tae Johnson

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