Updated: Mar 1, 2022
Contact: Hamid Yazdan Panah, Immigrant Defense Advocates hamid[@]imadvocates.org
Edwin Carmona-Cruz, California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice
March 12, 2021
For immediate release
Advocates Welcome Inclusion of Immigrant Detention in Vaccine Distribution, Seek Specifics on Plan
Sacramento, CA — Today, advocates learned that the State of California intends to provide vaccine access to individuals in congregate settings, including individuals detained in immigrant detention facilities. We welcome the long-overdue inclusion of immigrants in detention in the state’s vaccination plan and hope that it is a sign that this population will be included in all future efforts to protect the health and safety of California residents.
“The delays and confusion with respect to providing vaccine access to this population is a reflection of how invisible they are to our political process. We will continue to fight to ensure that they are not excluded from any discussions on equity and access. California must continue to lead on this issue, as a state we need to do better.” said Jackie Gonzalez, Policy Director with Immigrant Defense Advocates
This news comes almost 90 days after our organizations led a letter to state officials on this issue outlining our concerns and highlighting the perspectives of individuals in detention. This first letter, submitted on December 16, 2020, was followed by dozens of public comments submitted to the California Vaccine Advisory Committee by community members, advocates and healthcare professionals. A second letter was submitted on January 27, 2021.
While we welcome today’s news, we intend to submit a third and final letter, signed by more than 50 organizations, reiterating the need for this population to be directly acknowledged and addressed in any plan to secure the health and safety of our state. We look forward to hearing more details about the state’s specific plans for the challenge posed by these facilities.
Lisa Knox, Legal Director with the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice, emphasized the importance of communicating with individuals detained inside these facilities. “We have underscored that individuals in these facilities have expressed concerns about receiving vaccines from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or private detention operators given their record of substandard medical care, and have requested information and access to public health personnel. This is further evidenced by our recent communication with detained individuals sharing that they had been provided short informational flyers on vaccines, but have no ability to consult with trusted medical or health professionals.”
While we commend California policy-makers in providing individuals access to a life-saving vaccine, we must remain vigilant in working to ensure that the distribution of vaccines in detention does not serve as a basis for the expansion or prolonged detention of individuals, and should not serve as an alternative to the liberation of individuals from these cruel, unjust and unnecessary detention facilities.