Too Few Immigrants in Detention Facilities Are Vaccinated

Undocumented migrants in detention facilities continue to face exposure to the virus, despite a slight improvement from earlier in the year.

Despite the widespread availability of vaccines in the United States, the vast majority of immigrants held in detention in the country still haven’t received their first shot, allowing COVID-19 to spread unchecked through some detention facilities, reports Vox. As of last week, 8,221 immigrants in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, or roughly 30 percent of the detained population, had received one dose of the vaccine. Just over 1,300, or about 4 percent, had received two doses. And while this number represents an improvement from May, when just 20 percent of people in ICE detention were inoculated, the vaccine rollout has proved too slow to keep up with the rising number of immigrants in detention, which has nearly doubled since President Joe Biden took office.

There have been more than 19,000 Covid-19 cases in ICE detention, nine related deaths since the onset of the pandemic and, most recently, 921 active cases across 51 ICE detention facilities nationwide. Some of the worst outbreaks are occurring in Arizona, Texas and Louisiana, which all have lower than average vaccination rates in general. ICE presides over a network of detention facilities nationwide, most of which are run not by the agency itself, but by contractors including private prison companies and county jails, which the agency has used as an excuse to cede responsibility to state and local authorities to vaccinate immigrants in its custody. However, ICE has recently changed tactics, obtaining its first allocation of 10,000 vaccine doses and initiating nationwide distribution.