A New Angle on Vaccinations for Detained Illegal Aliens

By David North on December 27, 2020

My sense is that as soon as all the medical and hospital people have been vaccinated the Department of Homeland Security should pull all the needed strings to take care of two quite different DHS populations: the Border Patrol Agents, and the illegal aliens now in ICE custody (and their minders.)

The case for shots for the agents on the southern border is clear, as my colleague Todd Bensman has pointed out; these agents are frequently in contact with people arriving at the border with Covid-19 symptoms.

The case for giving early shots to the detainees may not be so obvious. There are two reasons: first, there is the humanitarian one in that they are cooped up in tight quarters where the virus has spread rapidly.

The second reason may not be so obvious. The wide-spread presence of detainees with Covid-19 means that the government is restrained from placing more illegal aliens in these centers, keeping them under capacity in order to maintain social distancing. But if all inmates (and all minders) were to be vaccinated, this factor would go away, and normal enforcement could resume.

In fact, the arresting officer might say to the detained alien: "you are much safer from the virus inside our facility than outside it, because everyone on the inside has been vaccinated. That's not true of your current situation."

Meanwhile, as various court cases on this issue have shown, there is a very real problem inside at least some of the detention centers. In the most recent of them, charges have been made that 80 percent of the inmates of the low-security detention center in Farmville, Va., have tested positive.

This is an interesting facility that is not related to the rent-a-prison system we know so well. It is an independent, for-profit operation and it is located, as the name of the town indicates, in a rural area, where costs are low. It was designed for low-risk inmates and has a continuing deal with the town to pay it one dollar for every detainee keeps overnight. It is about one hundred miles south of my home in Arlington, and brings its prisoners to the Arlington Immigration Court hearings through closed-circuit TV.

Meanwhile, a class action case against a long string of these centers, regarding how DHS treats its inmates, has been won (at least initially) by a team of lawyers in the Central District of California representing plaintiff detainees. The case is Faour Abdullah Fraihat, et al v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement et al. The PACER number is 5:19-cv-01546 JGB-SHK. The judge ruled in an April preliminary injunction that ICE had to improve its health treatment of COVID victims and others in a series of ways.