The U.S. Civil Liberties Union has urged the Biden administration to provide access to the Covid-19 vaccine to immigrants in detention, citing the rapid spread of the coronavirus in communities, according to a letter sent to the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and obtained by CNN.
During the coronavirus pandemic, immigration and customs detention centers have faced a growing number of positive cases, totaling more than 15,000 confirmed cases and nine deaths. As of May 25, there were 1,495 positive cases of Covid-19 in custody, according to agency data.
The ACLU, which filed dozens of lawsuits against ICE during the pandemic, called the lack of a vaccine strategy for the detained population a “failure” in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Thursday.
“The failure of the ICE to ensure a coordinated vaccination strategy continues to endanger those detained across the country,” read the letter.
“Meanwhile, COVID-19 epidemics continue to spread in detention centers across the country, endangering the health and safety of detainees despite ICE’s duty to protect detainees, in violation of their constitutional rights, ”he adds.
There are over 22,000 immigrants in ICE custody.
DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN.
The ICE previously described vaccination procedures in a document titled “COVID-19 Pandemic Response Requirements,” requiring detention facilities to contact their state’s vaccine resources, such as the state or country’s health department. , to get vaccines. But only a limited number have been vaccinated, in part because of different priority directions across states, ICE acting director Tae Johnson told lawmakers earlier this month.
As of May 5, 2,707 inmates had received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and 1,229 inmates were fully vaccinated, according to Johnson.
Mayorkas said plans to offer Covid-19 vaccines to inmates are “under review.”
But senior lawyer for the ACLU National Prison Project, Eunice Hyunhye Cho, called the delay “unacceptable.”
“It’s a literal matter of life and death,” Cho told CNN. “It was a completely predictable problem and ICE failed to protect the people in their care.”