The Biden administration has announced that it won’t be making routine immigration enforcement arrests at COVID-19 vaccination sites. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that vaccination sites will be treated as ‘sensitive locations’, enabling undocumented migrants to receive the jab.
The DHS said that ‘only under extraordinary circumstances would an arrest be made for US immigration violations.’ The announcement further demonstrates President Joe Biden’s pledge to taker a softer approach toward illegal immigration. The 46th US President has moved quickly to reverse many of Trump’s controversial US immigration policies.
However, he recently got a taste of how hard it will be to revoke his predecessor’s tough immigration rules, after a federal judge ruled that his order to pause deportations for 100 days will not be allowed.
Get the vaccine
In an official statement, the DHS said: “We encourage everyone, regardless of US immigration status, to get the vaccine when they are eligible. The DHS and its federal partners fully support equal access to COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine distribution sites for undocumented immigrants.”
The DHS currently oversees the Federal Management Agency, which is working alongside other partners of the federal government to get vaccination sites set up across America.
In recent years, the US government has considered many venues to be ‘sensitive locations’, including health centers, schools and places of worship, meaning that US immigration enforcement action would not take place on or around the grounds of these locations.
It’s not uncommon for people to take refuge in a church to avoid deportation from the US.
Undocumented immigrants hard to reach
Despite the DHS announcement, immigrant advocates have warned that many undocumented immigrants will be hard to reach in the wake of four years of anti-immigrant rhetoric under the Trump administration.
Advocates say that after four years of being ‘under attack’, many people who lack legal status in the US will worry about going to a vaccination clinic for fear of being arrested by federal US immigration agents or that personal data provided at the clinics will be used against them later on.
Meanwhile, the governor of Nebraska, Pete Ricketts said that undocumented migrants will be a ‘low priority’ for receiving the vaccine. However, it’s unknown how Ricketts plans to enforce putting undocumented immigrants at the bottom of the list, since vaccination sites don’t ask for information on a person’s US immigration status.
The Biden administration has pledged to ‘rewrite US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) guidelines’, distancing itself from policies during the Trump-era, which made every undocumented immigrant a target for arrest.
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