Doctors Arrested While Offering Flu Vaccines for Immigrants in Border Patrol Custody

Lead Photo: An influenza vaccination is prepared for a patient at a CVS Pharmacy store's MinuteClinic on October 4, 2018. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
An influenza vaccination is prepared for a patient at a CVS Pharmacy store's MinuteClinic on October 4, 2018. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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A group of doctors protesting outside Border Patrol’s San Diego, California headquarters in an effort to provide free flu vaccinations to detained immigrants were arrested by federal authorities on Tuesday.

Newsweek reports that multiple members of Doctors for Camp Closure, a group created by physicians who oppose the detention of immigrants and have vowed to demonstrate outside the facility for a week, said several medical professionals had been apprehended.

“We are licensed medical doctors and practitioners with decades of experience. The Trump administration has left us with no choice but to show up at the San Diego Border Patrol Headquarters and beg to provide life-saving medical care for these children,” the group said in a statement that was sent to the news outlet. “We have already written to immigration officials and tried to set up meetings with them as well—but they are ignoring us and children’s lives are at risk as a result. We will not stand down.”

Last month, Remezcla reported that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had been ignoring recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to vaccinate immigrants and asylum seekers in detention against the flu virus for nearly a year.

The current push comes after at least three children, ages 2, 6 and 16, died of influenza while in federal custody this fiscal year. Most recently, a video published by ProPublica shows Guatemalan teenager Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez lying dead on the concrete floor in his detention cell last May after falling sick before his death. Agents were aware of his fever but locked him in a room with another detainee instead of providing him with healthcare that had been previously recommended.

CBP has rejected proposals from medical professionals to vaccinate immigrants because, they allege, it doesn’t “make sense from a law enforcement, public health or good governance perspective” given that immigrants receive this care when they are transferred to different facilities, a process that could take several days or weeks.

In a post on Facebook, Doctors for Camp Closure said everyone who was arrested on Tuesday was safe.

By demonstrating, the group hopes to be invited into the facility to run a pilot program and provide 100 doses of the influenza vaccine “at no cost to the U.S. government or its agencies.”

According to Dr. Marie DeLuca, an emergency physician from New York and one of the group’s founders, their hope is to stop people from “needlessly suffering and dying.”

Since the physicians began protesting, several Democratic leaders have offered support. On Tuesday, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) called on the Trump administration to provide flu vaccines and improve medical care for detained immigrants.

“This is flu season that we’re going into, and the administration has decided not to do a basic thing for people who are ill or could get ill, which is to give them a flu shot,” Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), the CHC chairman, said