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DHS says illegal immigrants should get COVID vaccine; no ICE enforcement near clinics

Stacy Vasquez, CEO of the Birmingham VA receives the COVID-19 vaccine. (Joe Songer | al.com/TNS)
February 02, 2021

The Department of Homeland Security announced this week that it “fully supports equal access to COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine distribution sites” for illegal immigrants, calling it a “moral and public health imperative” that all people currently living in the United States have access to the vaccination.

In a statement released by the department on Monday, DHS said it encourages all people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine regardless of immigration status.

“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,” the statement said. “Further, DHS supports the equitable and efficient distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to all populations, including historically underserved communities.”

According to the statement, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not organize enforcement operations at or near vaccine distribution centers 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,” the statement said.

The federal government is also enlisting the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate support facilities, pop-up or temporary vaccination locations and mobile clinics.

In December, senior medical advisor for Physicians for Human Rights Dr. Ranit Mishori warned that millions of undocumented immigrants being too scared to sign up for the vaccination could adversely affect herd immunity.

“I’m very, very concerned,” Dr. Mishori told CNN. “If we are as a country to achieve herd immunity, that means non-citizens who live among us have to be immunized.”

Meanwhile, many military veterans are being turned away from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine because they make too much money.

Last month, the VA sent out notices that said eligible veterans 70 and over could receive the vaccine without an appointment, but certain “income restrictions” did apply.

Army veteran Paul Jacobs, 91, was refused the vaccine at a VA clinic in West Palm Beach after waiting for three hours due to his income.

“It’s not fair that they turned us away,” he said. “It was just a shame that veterans were discriminated against because of their income.”

“There were 16 of us sent away,” added Jacobs, who served in Korea. “I was so upset. I couldn’t even drive home. My daughter had to drive.”