This week the Biden administration’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stated that illegal immigrants should get vaccinated for the coronavirus. DHS also asserted that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection “will not conduct enforcement operations at or near vaccine distribution sites or clinics. … ICE does not and will not carry out enforcement operations at or near health care facilities, such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, accredited health clinics, and emergent or urgent care facilities, except in the most extraordinary of circumstances.”
DHS issued statement
DHS and its Federal government partners fully support equal access to the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine distribution sites for undocumented immigrants. It is a moral and public health imperative to ensure that all individuals residing in the United States have access to the vaccine. DHS encourages all individuals, regardless of immigration status, to receive the COVID-19 vaccine once eligible under local distribution guidelines. DHS carries out its mission, including all areas within its COVID-19 response, without discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, nationality, or other protected class, and in compliance with law and policy. Further, DHS supports the equitable and efficient distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to all populations, including historically underserved communities.To reach underserved and rural communities, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in collaboration with federal partners, will coordinate efforts to establish and support fixed facilities, pop-up or temporary vaccination sites, and mobile vaccination clinics. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not conduct enforcement operations at or near vaccine distribution sites or clinics. Consistent with ICE’s long-standing sensitive locations policy, ICE does not and will not carry out enforcement operations at or near health care facilities, such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, accredited health clinics, and emergent or urgent care facilities, except in the most extraordinary of circumstances.DHS is committed to ensuring that every individual who needs a vaccine can get one, regardless of their immigration status.
In December, Dr. Ranit Mishori, senior medical advisor for Physicians for Human Rights, told CNN, “I’m very, very concerned. If we are as a country to achieve herd immunity, that means non-citizens who live among us have to be immunized.”
There has been a push from some quarters to prioritize illegal immigrants vis-à-vis the vaccine. HealthAffairs.com wrote in January: As the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are distributed to health care workers, one question lingers: Who should be vaccinated next? … To the task forces, advisory committees, and distribution planners currently coordinating further vaccine rollouts, we have an important message: Undocumented immigrants, who compose a significant proportion of essential workers, must be included—and prioritized—in these plans. Furthermore, as calls are made to distribute vaccines to prisons, there has been little talk of a parallel distribution to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees, who have experienced widespread outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2.