On Monday, six protesters were arrested by federal authorities after a group of doctors offering flu vaccines for migrants was turned away at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s San Diego-area headquarters.
The doctors were from Doctors for Camp Closure, which is an organization that opposes the detention of migrants and refugees attempting to enter the United States. The doctors protested with a group of approximately 70 people outside a facility in Chula Vista, California.
The protests did not begin until after the doctors were turned away by CBP after requesting entrance to administer flu vaccines to the detained migrants.
Protesters blocked the facility’s driveway by lying down in the roadway. The protesters say they want to send the message that basic healthcare and hygiene is a human right.
“People die of the flu, but the people who have died of the flu in CPB custody, it was completely preventable,” Dr. Julie Sierra said. “Keeping people in hygienic conditions and not overcrowding them and giving them soap and access to showers, that can help prevent illness. But nothing prevents the flu-like a flu vaccine.”
— Doctors for Camp Closure (@Doc4CampClosure) December 11, 2019
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren tweeted about the situation. “Children are dying in CBP custody due to the flu. Refusing to administer flu vaccines is neglectful and cruel. I’ll end the unnecessary detention of children and families—and enforce strict standards for medical care for anyone in our care.”
Children are dying in CBP custody due to the flu. Refusing to administer flu vaccines is neglectful and cruel. I'll end the unnecessary detention of children and families—and enforce strict standards for medical care for anyone in our care. https://t.co/pHWOXEDM2J
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) December 10, 2019
During the 2018 flu season, at least three children in U.S. immigration custody died from flu infections, According to Doctors for Camp Closure that nine times the mortality rate of the general pediatric population.
Carlos Vasquez, 16, was found dead on May 20, he died while in CBP custody of the flu. He suffered from a 103-degree fever and collapsed onto the cold floor where he laid for several hours unattended before being discovered.
After Vasquez’s death, CBP said in a statement that it is investigating the 16-year-old’s death to “ensure all procedures were followed.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended in a letter dated Nov. 7 that CBP vaccinate detained migrants against the flu virus. A CBP official told the Washington Post that the agency has “never provided immunizations for detained migrants, and it would not do so.”