The ACLU of Colorado wants the Immigration and Customs Enforcement to ensure the 563 detainees in the Aurora ICE Processing Center are vaccinated.
ACLU chapters in Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas sent letters to their local ICE field directors, as well as federal authorities, Thursday encouraging the safeguard.
"ICE detention centers are no different than jails and prisons. These types of facilities are a virus’ delight. With no way to adhere to CDC guidelines, the virus can spread easily and quickly," Denise Maes, ACLU of Colorado's public policy director, said in a statement. "The answer is to depopulate the facility and vaccinate those persons housed there. And do it now."
You can read the full letter by clicking here.
Acting ICE director Tae Johnson told a House Appropriations subcommittee on May 14 that the agency is working to acquire and deploy vaccines.
“The allotment for vaccines for detainees across the entire country is part of the individual state’s allotment,” he said. “That is the current plan … What priority level inmates and ICE detainees are varies significantly by state.”
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement: "DHS and its Federal government partners fully support equal access to the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine distribution sites for undocumented immigrants. It is a moral and public health imperative to ensure that all individuals residing in the United States have access to the vaccine."
Across the country, about 17,000 people are in ICE custody.
The ACLU has filed dozens of lawsuits related to the pandemic in the last 14 months. In April, the the civil liberties organization called on the Department of Homeland Security to shut down 39 ICE detention facilities and allow those released to remain free. Aurora was not on the list, however.
The ACLU said ICE detention facilities have experienced positivity rates five times higher than other lockups and 20 times greater than the overall U.S. population.
That puts staff and local communities at risk, as well.
"This is unacceptable and unconscionable, especially at a time where there is ample vaccine availability," stated Eunice Cho, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Prison Project. "Our government can and must ensure all detained people have access to the vaccines, and quickly. Doing so is a matter of life and death.”