Biden: Illegal Immigrants Should Be Able to Get Vaccine without Fear of ICE

A healthcare worker receives a dose of the Moderna vaccine in San Diego, Calif., December 22, 2020. (Bing Guan/Reuters)

President Biden said Friday that illegal immigrants in the U.S. should be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine without fear of being targeted by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“I want to make sure they are able to get vaccinated and so they’re protected from COVID without the ICE or anyone interfering,” Biden said in an interview with Univision during a visit to a vaccination site in Texas. “They should . . . not be arrested for showing for being able to get a vaccination.”

The Department of Homeland Security announced earlier this month that ICE would not conduct enforcement activities at or near vaccination sites.

“It is a moral and public health imperative to ensure that all individuals residing in the United States have access to the vaccine,” the agency said in a statement then. “DHS is committed to ensuring that every individual who needs a vaccine can get one, regardless of their immigration status.”

The Biden administration has focused on creating equity in its vaccine distribution plans, working to target underserved communities as well as illegal immigrants.

“We do feel, as an administration, that ensuring that all people in the United States, undocumented immigrants as well, of course, should receive access to a vaccine because that one is morally right but also ensures that people in the country are also safe,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last month.

Republican lawmakers in January sought to add a stipulation to Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan that would have moved undocumented immigrants to the back of the line for vaccinations.

“No vaccines for illegal immigrants jumping to the head of the line to get vaccines,” Representative Jeff Duncan (R., S.C.), the amendment’s sponsor, said when introducing the amendment. “They’ve done it once, by jumping to the head of the line to enter this country, and they’ll do it again.”

However, Democrats have argued that illegal immigrants hold jobs as essential workers across the country and withholding the shots from a swath of public-facing workers would not help slow the spread of the virus.

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