Border Patrol Refusing to Let Doctors Treat Children

A group of doctors is pressuring Customs and Border Protection officials to allow them to administer flu vaccines to families in immigration detention. Despite multiple deaths, the agency has thus far refused offers for medical care.

According to a Tuesday report in the Los Angeles Times, seven doctors offered to arrange volunteers to vaccinate kids and parents at Border Patrol holding facilities "to prevent a possible flu epidemic." In letters to the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, the doctors noted that the children in Border Patrol custody were nine times more likely to die of the flu than the general population. Three youths died last year.

While the doctors had not yet received a response, a spokesperson for the Border Patrol told the Times that it did not vaccinate in holding areas because they were intended to be temporary placements.

 
 

"As a law enforcement agency, and due to the short-term nature of [Border Patrol] holding and other logistical challenges, operating a vaccine program is not feasible," she said.

Julie Sierra, one of the doctors offering to do the vaccinations, told the paper she had seen the flu spreading among migrant families in the San Diego area. "It's putting people in a dangerous situation and increasing their risks of getting any disease, including the flu," noting that once they get sick, the vaccines won't help them.

Sierra said she attempted to help vaccinate patients at the San Ysidro Border Patrol station near her clinic. "They won't let us in. We've volunteered to take care of patients, to be on call. We keep trying to help."

A spokesperson for the Border Patrol did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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