January 26, 2022

DHS Medical Experts in Detention Health Send Letter to Department of Homeland Security on the Need for Boosters in Immigration Detention

DHS Failures to Implement CDC, Doctors’ Recommendations and Protective Measures Continue to Endanger Immigrants, Workers and the Public From COVID-19

WASHINGTON – Today, medical experts at the Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (DHS CRCL) sent a whistleblower disclosure to DHS Secretary Mayorkas urging him to implement vaccination and booster requirements as well as a comprehensive COVID plan within ICE detention facilities. As Omicron continues to cause surges throughout the United States, booster vaccinations have become the standard in COVID-19 prevention, but DHS has yet to adopt this approach even in the face of the high, well-documented risks associated with detention settings.

Drs. Scott Allen and Josiah “Jody” Rich have conducted numerous investigations into ICE detention over the last seven years as medical subject matter experts in detention health. As early as February 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, they began urging DHS to take action to address the substantial danger to immigrant, worker, and public health and safety posed by the spread of coronavirus in detention settings. They escalated their concerns to Congress in March 2020, calling ICE detention a “tinderbox scenario.” They renewed their concerns at the beginning of the Biden administration and again in June 2021 to Congress as COVID continued to spread aggressively in ICE detention, recommending that DHS adopt and implement a comprehensive DHS plan for COVID-19 vaccination for the detained population. When the Biden administration praised the success of vaccines in August 2021, the doctors once again called for DHS to do more for those in ICE detention, penning an op-ed in The Hill.

Drs. Allen and Rich today renewed their call for action to address the serious health threat to immigrants, workers, and the public, writing:

“COVID has presented a most daunting challenge, especially in high-risk congregate settings such as immigration detention. But ICE’s failure to implement a plan for providing boosters to detained immigrants is inexplicable in light of available science, government public health recommendations, and their widespread availability. The failure to act with alacrity has contributed to the number of confirmed COVID cases skyrocketing since the emergence of the Omicron variant.”

Government Accountability Project Senior Counsel Dana Gold, attorney for Drs. Allen and Rich, commented,

“It is unconscionable that DHS, nearly two years since the beginning of the pandemic, continues to endanger the lives of immigrants, workers and the public by failing to implement measures and enforce practices that protect against the spread of COVID. We hope that the Department will finally heed the warnings and recommendations of its own medical experts—echoed by the CDC—and ensure that immigrants and workers alike receive unimpeded access to vaccination and boosters to prevent further unnecessary illnesses and death.”


Contact: Andrew Harman, Communications Director
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (202) 926-3304

Government Accountability Project

Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.