People with health conditions that put them at high risk for Covid-19 have been denied access to booster shots of the coronavirus vaccine while in federal immigration detention, the American said. Civil Liberties Union in a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four immigration detainees who suffer from kidney disease, HIV or other conditions, and names ICE and the agency’s acting director, Tae Johnson, as well as the Department of Homeland Security and its secretary, Alejandro N. Mayorkas.
The ACLU said it hopes to turn the case into a class action and the goal is to ensure booster shots are available to all eligible medically vulnerable inmates.
“What we’re hearing is that people will apply for Covid-19 callbacks, they’ll be told none are available at the moment, they just have to wait,” he said. said Eunice Cho, senior counsel at the ACLU’s National Prison Project. “Sometimes they are just ignored.”
Of the roughly 18,200 people held in immigration detention, 1,035 had tested positive for Covid and were in isolation or being monitored as of Friday afternoon, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement data. The agency does not provide data on the number of inmates vaccinated.
ICE’s pandemic response requirements were last updated in October and do not refer to booster shots, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that all adults in get one. A spokeswoman for the agency said she could not comment on the ongoing litigation.
The lawsuit is the second the ACLU has filed seeking recalls for those held in immigration detention. Both were filed in federal district court for the District of Columbia. All five named plaintiffs in the first lawsuit received booster shots after it was filed, Ms Cho said.
The most high-profile plaintiff in the new lawsuit is Anna Sorokin, a Russian immigrant who for several years posed as a German heiress named Anna Delvey. She received a booster shot on Thursday, Ms Cho said.
“We really shouldn’t have to keep pursuing these lawsuits to get recalls for people detained by ICE,” Ms Cho said. “ICE should just do what the government’s own medical advisers are recommending and start providing boosters to everyone who is eligible and asking for them.”
Ms Sorokin, 31, has been detained by ICE since March 2021 and is charged with overstaying her visa.
Ms Sorokin, who is being held at the Orange County Correctional Facility in Goshen, New York, has a chronic kidney infection and received a dose of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine around April 2021 , according to the complaint. She made several recall requests, including before and after testing positive for Covid in January, according to the complaint.
The other three plaintiffs are Kenet Jefet Hernandez Herrera, 24, detained in Eloy, Arizona; Ramon Dominguez Gonzalez, 32, who is being held at the Imperial Regional Adult Detention Center in California; and Miguel Angel Escalante, 36, detained in Florence, Arizona.
In January, two doctors who inspect immigration detention centers for the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Scott Allen and Josiah Rich, wrote a letter to the heads of ICE and the Department of Homeland Security urging their agencies to provide inmate gunshot reminders.