Dem senators urge ICE to provide boosters, vaccine 'education’ to detained illegal immigrants

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Democratic senators are urging the Biden administration to provide COVID-19 boosters, as well as “vaccine and booster education” to illegal immigrants in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, amid fears of rising COVID-19 cases in detention centers.

In a letter to acting ICE Director Tae Johnson sent this week, the Democrats cite statistics that the number of COVID-19 cases have increased by 800% since the start of the year and that at the end of January 14% of the detainee population (at least 3,038) were under isolation or monitoring for COVID-19.

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“In spite of the CDC’s recommendations, ICE is failing to provide COVID-19 booster shots to people in ICE detention,” the Democrats write. “As of January 6, 2022, ICE has administered only 671 booster shots nationwide, to the over 22,000 detainees nationwide in ICE custody each day. Advocates have reported to us that booster shots are not being made available to individuals in detention and that even educational materials about booster shots are not uniformly available.”

The letter is signed by 12 senators including Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Edward Markey, D-Mass., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio and Cory Booker, D-N.J.

The lawmakers call on ICE to identify and provide eligible detainees with vaccine boosters, provide guidance to detention facilities to “immediately and routinely” provide vaccines, and “promote accessible vaccine and booster education for all detained people.”

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They also ask for a plan to ensure all detainees are offered vaccinations and education “in their preferred language” and the number of how many detainees have been fully and partially vaccinated, as well as given booster shots.

So far the Biden administration has not issued any vaccine mandate for illegal immigrants who are in the country, although it has mandated them for travelers at ports of entry. The Biden administration has kept the Title 42 public health protections in place, but it has been used for fewer and fewer migrants.

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Fox News reported last year that approximately 30% of those in custody had refused a COVID-19 vaccine.

Axios reported last month that the Biden administration is considering requiring migrants aged 5 and older to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition for crossing the U.S-Mexico border and being placed in immigration proceedings.

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