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Doctors March On Border Patrol, Demanding It Vaccinates Detainees
Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Photo by Andi Dukleth
A group of doctors from across the country is spending the week in San Diego demanding they be allowed to vaccinate detained migrants against flu.
Over the past year, three detained migrant children have died of flu while in Border Patrol custody in Texas and New Mexico. They include 16-year-old Carlos Vasquez, whose death in May came after Border Patrol agents refused to give him medical assistance as he laid dying.
Footage of his death was uncovered by the news outlet Pro Publica last week.
Doctors for Camp Closure, a grassroots organization of medical professionals, organized the trip to San Diego this week to offer flu vaccinations to migrants being held in nearby Border Patrol stations.
Customs and Border Protection does not vaccinate its detainees, saying it has no responsibility to do so.
On Twitter, the Department of Homeland Security derided the doctors' campaign, writing, “Of course Border Patrol isn't going to let a random group of radical political activists show up and start injecting people with drugs.”
Julie Sierra, a San Diego-based doctor who is a member of Doctors For Camp Closure, has been helping treat migrants on both sides of the border over the past year. She has seen firsthand the impact that conditions inside Border Patrol facilities have had on the health of migrants.
“The conditions that they’re in, that’s how viruses spread," she said. "Putting a lot of people in a small amount of space without hygiene is how you get illnesses to spread. And the flu is just like any other virus, it spreads like crazy."
Marie DeLuca, an New York emergency room doctor, came down to take part in the vaccination offer. She’s skeptical about Customs and Border Protection’s reasoning behind not vaccinating their detainees.
“As a law enforcement agency, they’re choosing to detain people in crowded conditions, which means they’re placing people in a situation where infectious disease is more likely to spread," she said. "So they’re actually creating this problem."
On Monday, doctors marched to a Border Patrol facility in San Ysidro, where their request to vaccinate detainees was denied. On Tuesday, the group marched to Border Patrol headquarters in Chula Vista, in order to speak with higher-ups in the agency.
Their request was once again denied.
After marching in front of the Border Patrol regional headquarters in Chula Vista, six activists and doctors were taken into custody and cited by Federal Protection Officers after they blocked the entry to the headquarters.
The group plans to offer vaccinations at another Border Patrol facility on Wednesday.
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