ACLU Sends Letter Demanding DHS Provide COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters to People in ICE Detention and Files FOIA Requests

December 15, 2021 10:15 am

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WASHINGTON — The ACLU sent a letter today demanding Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas implement a plan to immediately provide COVID-19 vaccine boosters to the more than 21,000 people held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers.

The ACLU and seven of its affiliates also filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and local public records act requests regarding the provision of COVID-19 vaccine boosters in 30 facilities with the largest incidence of COVID-19 outbreaks nationwide.

In the letter, ACLU attorneys draw attention to ICE’s failure to provide COVID-19 booster shots threatening the health of detained people. Throughout the pandemic, ICE detention centers have been among the most dangerous places in the United States. Infection rates in ICE detention facilities are 20 times higher than in the general public, with more than 31,400 people in detention testing positive to date.

“It appears that ICE has no plan for detention facilities to provide booster shots to all who need them, or provide people with education on the importance of booster doses,” said Eunice Cho, senior staff attorney at the ACLU National Prison Project. “This is yet another example of ICE’s cavalier approach to the health and safety of people in detention, in violation of their constitutional rights, and underscores the inherent danger of detention in the first place.”

ICE has relied heavily on the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which has the lowest rate of efficacy of all available vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend those who received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine receive a booster within two months, and those who received a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine receive a booster within six months.

The ACLU demands ICE immediately take the following actions:

  • Issue clear guidance requiring that all detention facilities provide COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots to all detained people upon eligibility and ensure that both vaccines and booster shots are offered at intake as well as on a regular basis to all eligible individuals.
  • Ensure there are adequate supplies of COVID-19 vaccines available, and that accessible educational materials in multiple languages are available for all detained people.
  • Continue to conduct custody determinations, and release people who are medically vulnerable to COVID-19 based on age or a pre-existing health condition or are otherwise not an enforcement priority.

The letter is available online here:

The FOIA request is available online here:

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