May 27, 2021 - Politics & Policy

ACLU urges Biden administration to vaccinate detained immigrants

Image of people standing in a line

Signs notifying visitors that ICE and Customs and Border Protection will not conduct enforcement operations at a COVID-19 vaccination center at the Miami Dade College North Campus on March 10. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The ACLU on Thursday urged Immigration and Customs Enforcement to vaccinate detained immigrants, saying the agency has failed to create a coordinated response to rampant infections.

The big picture: Immigration attorneys told the Washington Post in early March that ICE had no clear plan to vaccinate the thousands of immigrants in its custody.

  • ICE acting Director Tae Johnson told lawmakers earlier this month that as of May 5, 2,707 detainees out of more than 22,000 had received one COVID-19 vaccine dose, while 1,229 people were fully vaccinated.
  • There are currently 1,485 positive coronavirus cases in ICE custody, per agency data.

What they're saying: "ICE’s failure to ensure a coordinated strategy for vaccination continues to endanger people in detention nationwide," the ACLU wrote in a letter to Johnson and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas

ICE said in an emailed statement that it is "firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody."

  • "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," ICE spokesperson Paige Hughes said.
  • "Additionally, DHS’s Chief Medical Officer is rapidly working on scaling our own internal capability to vaccinate detainees in our care across the country.”
Go deeper