ACLU urges the Biden administrator to provide imprisoned immigrants "instant entry" to the COVID-19 vaccine
"The ICE's failure to ensure a coordinated vaccination strategy continues to put people in custody nationwide at risk," the ACLU said in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and acting ICE director Tae Johnson. "ICE's COVID-19 plan has left it up to individual prisons to contact their state's COVID-19 vaccine resource in order to obtain a vaccine." But the organization said that approach was "too widespread Failure has led ".
”While more than 60% of adults in the United States have received at least one dose of a vaccine, the vast majority of people in ICE detention have not yet received a dose: on May 7, 2021, less than seven% of ICE detainees nationwide had COVID -19 vaccines, ”the group continues. "In many cases, state and local authorities have publicly stated that the federal government has a responsibility to provide COVID-19 vaccines to people in federal ICE custody."
It shouldn't come as a shock that this disorganized approach has produced chaotic results. While ICE inmates in California were eligible for the vaccine in March, a judge criticized ICE that same month for failing to take measures to protect inmates at a New York location. ICE claimed it had asked for vaccines from the state in vain. But when proponents suggested booking outside of appointments that ICE could escort inmates to (ICE already does this for certain medical appointments), officials hesitated.
"In contrast to ICE's failed vaccination strategy, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which worked to secure vaccine doses direct from the federal government, administered over 184,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to inmates and employees," the ACLU continued. "By mid-May, the Bureau of Prisons had offered vaccines to everyone in federal prisons."
In the meantime, analysis after analysis has made it clear that ICE has always had the power to prevent a health disaster in its facilities, but has largely decided against it. Instead, the agency deteriorated it. The pandemic ultimately contributed to the agency’s highest deaths in custody in 15 years. Among them was 61-year-old Cipriano Chavez-Alvarez, who ordered to be released from prison by a federal judge for his underlying medical condition, only to be caught by ICE. He died of COVID-19 in September.
Employees in facilities with private prison directors were also affected Tell congress last July that 900 of their employees tested positive for the virus. ICE tried to protect this information from the public. If ICE doesn't want to get involved in vaccinating imprisoned immigrants, it could simply release them to their communities so they can seek vaccination on their own. But instead, after a At the end of February around 13,500 immigrants were in ICE custody, ICE had approx. 21,500 Immigrants in custody from the end of May.
And COVID-19 cases in custody are on the rise again. ”Data published on ICE's website and interviews with immigrant attorneys and attorneys show COVID-19 spikes are occurring in several immigration detention centers owned and operated by private, for-profit companies that contract ICE, ”reported recently Arizona Republic and The American South. These include a number of ICE locations that the ACLU Mayorkas and the administration previously requested to be closed.
"Given the urgency of COVID-19 – including the introduction of new variants and ongoing outbreaks in prisons across the country due to increased population – it is imperative that ICE act quickly to provide vaccines to all detainees and staff in all prisons nationwide," said the ACLU.