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After months of pressure from lawyers, incarcerated immigrants in California could now be vaccinated

“At the national level, ICE’s plans to vaccinate the approximately 14,000 people in custody have created confusion,” Mother Jones reported earlier this month. “ICE often has implies that it is up to states to provide vaccines for inmates with a migrant background. In the meantime, states have often assumed that ICE will handle the vaccinations. “In the midst of this bureaucratic clue are people incarcerated in facilities that have experienced some of the worst outbreaks in the nation.

“The coronavirus has ravaged all seven California prisons and infected more than 600 people detained in the facilities since the pandemic began,” KQED said. “More than a dozen inmates diagnosed with COVID-19 are currently isolated or under surveillance, according to ICE numbers. ”In fact, a recent report found that imprisoned immigrants were 13 times more likely to get the virus than the general population.

The lawyers sent a second letter to state officials in late January after receiving no response. “In addition, ICE appears to have pledged to vaccinate its own and prison staff without presenting a vaccination plan, ”said Immigrant Defense Advocates and California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice in this second letter.

The organizations said in a press release this week that “[w]While we recommend that California policymakers give individuals access to a life-saving vaccine, we must work vigilantly that the distribution of the imprisoned vaccines is not and should not be used as a basis for the expansion or prolonged incarceration of individuals Serving liberation of individuals from these cruel, unjust and unnecessary detention facilities. ”

Both immigration lawyers and public health experts have criticized the cruel and prolonged detention of immigrants amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. ICE’s refusal to allow detained immigrants only to seek refuge in their own homes and communities has contributed to the deterioration in the nation’s numbers by hundreds of thousands of cases, according to a report. But while California’s move is a human rights win, incarcerated immigrants are still vulnerable elsewhere.

As recently as this month, a federal judge in New York beat officials for continuing to fail to protect immigrants detained at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia. the site of another major outbreak. Officials there claimed they could not have received vaccines from state health officials. However, when proponents suggested booking external appointments that ICE could then take them to (ICE already does this for certain medical appointments), officials refused. “They don’t do anything to get them the vaccine” Mother jones Reports Judge Lawrence Vilardo told officials. “Nothing. Zero.”

“The delays and confusion surrounding making vaccines available to these populations reflects how invisible they are to our political process,” said Jackie Gonzalez, policy director of Immigrant Defense Advocates. Proponents said they would continue to press for more details on the officials’ plans. “We will continue to fight to ensure that they are not excluded from discussions about justice and access. California must continue to lead on this issue, as a state we must do better. “

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