US immigration authorities no longer allow physicians to give flu vaccines to detained children, licensed doctors at the Chula Visa border patrol station in San Ysidro confirmed, highlighting that the move could lead to more deaths behind bars.
The physicians were declined access to the migration facility as, according to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP), it was not ''feasible'' to provide health care.
Dr. Bonnie Arzuaga, the co-founder of Doctors for Camp Closure, said that a group of 60 doctors and advocates were ready with 120 doses of the vaccine on Monday. She said it would have taken them less than 30 minutes to vaccinate all the detained children. All the CBP needed to do was to open the gates and grant access, which did not happen.
The doctors pointed out that there were already three recent flu deaths of children in US custody, aged two, six, and 16.
Dr. Hannah Janeway is also among the emergency medicine physicians turned away by CBP. She highlighted that the minors are locked together in cages without any vaccination. This year we expect a dangerous flu epidemic, Dr. Janeway added, pointing out the need for instant reaction by the relevant authorities.
CBP has the moral obligation to grant access to medical care and provide vaccines, she said, adding that our government is letting children die without doing nothing.
Dr. Janeway and her colleagues have been trying to vaccinate minor migrants in custody for over a month. In November, they suggested opening a free pilot clinic.
However, CBP declined the proposal saying that it is in charge of short-term detention, and a flu clinic is not feasible.
A CBP spokesman, Matthew Dyman, declined the accusations saying that CBP is not supposed to hold individuals in custody for more than 72 hours. Dyman also admitted that CBP does its best to hold detainees for the minimum amount of time required.
According to CBP, its colleagues from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), which operates long-term detention, provide all the necessary medical care.
A look into the official government statistics has proved that immigrants have been held in CBP custody in unacceptable conditions for longer than 72 hours. Some immigration lawyers also confirmed that their clients had been held for weeks without any proper explanation.
Doctors said that the length of detention has nothing to do with access to medical care. In the physicians' view, CBP should provide life-saving services.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the statement that migrant children in detention should also be given access to medical care?