Doctors arrested for demanding flu vaccines for migrant children

A group of doctors and other protesters were arrested by federal authorities in California this week as they attempted to pressure U.S. Customs and Border Protection to administer flu vaccines to detained migrant children.

At least three minors in U.S. immigration custody ― aged 2, 6 and 16 ― have died from complications from the flu since December 2018. 

The San Diego Union-Tribune said six protesters, including at least two doctors, were handcuffed and taken into custody outside U.S. Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector headquarters in Chula Vista on Tuesday afternoon. The group had laid on the ground to block an entrance to the facility. 

They were cited for failing to “comply with the lawful directions of a federal police officer” and later released with an order to appear in federal court, the Union-Tribune said.

Doctors and immigration advocates ― and even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ― have been pressing CBP for months to administer flu shots to migrants in their custody. Some physicians have even offered to set up free clinics to administer the vaccines.

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A Border Patrol agent drives his ATV during the official start for the construction of new bollard wall to replace 20-miles of primary vehicle barriers in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, United States April 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
A border patrol agent carries a bale of marijuana following a drug bust by the Mexico-U.S. border in the Rio Grande Valley sector, near McAllen, Texas, U.S., April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
Border Patrol agents are pictured during the official start for the construction of new bollard wall to replace 20-miles of primary vehicle barriers in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, United States April 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
Ladders collected and discarded by U.S. Border Patrol agents are pictured near a section of border fence in Hidalgo, Texas, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
Border Patrol agents keep watch during the official start for the construction of new bollard wall to replace 20-miles of primary vehicle barriers in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, United States April 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Border patrol agents and a special operations group member from the Texas Ranger Division seize 297 pounds of marijuana following a drug bust by the Mexico-U.S. border in the Rio Grande Valley sector, near McAllen, Texas, U.S., April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
An immigrant who jumped into a canal in an effort to escape capture after illegally crossing the Mexico-U.S. border gives up and turns himself in to a border patrol agent in the Rio Grande Valley sector, near McAllen, Texas, U.S., April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
Border patrol agents briefly rest after seizing 297 pounds of marijuana in a drug bust by the Mexico-U.S. border in the Rio Grande Valley sector, near McAllen, Texas, U.S., April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
Suspected drug mules are apprehended by border patrol agents following a drug bust at the Mexico-U.S. border in the Rio Grande Valley sector, near McAllen, Texas, U.S., April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
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A border patrol agent apprehends people who illegally crossed the border from Mexico into the U.S. in the Rio Grande Valley sector, near Falfurrias, Texas, U.S., April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
An agent from the US Customs and Border Protection Agency patrols along the border between Santa Teresa, Nuevo Mexico State, in the US, and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua State, in Mexico, on April 9, 2018 where the US plans to build a 32-km-long steel wall. Mexico is carrying out a sweeping review of its cooperation with the neighbouring United States because of 'blatant' tension with Donald Trump's administration, the foreign minister said Monday. / AFP PHOTO / HERIKA MARTINEZ (Photo credit should read HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A US Border Patrol agent stands along the border fence on April 6, 2018 in Calexico, California. US President Donald Trump on April 5, 2018 said he would send thousands of National Guard troops to the southern border, amid a widening spat with his Mexican counterpart Enrique Pena Nieto. The anti-immigration president said the National Guard deployment would range from 2,000 to 4,000 troops, and he would 'probably' keep many personnel on the border until his wall is built -- spelling out a lengthy mission. / AFP PHOTO / Sandy Huffaker (Photo credit should read SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
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On Monday, a group of a doctors arrived at a CBP detention facility in San Ysidro and urged the agency to allow detained migrant children to participate in a mobile clinic set up outside. But their efforts were rebuffed.

“Of course Border Patrol isn’t going to let a random group of radical political activists show up and start injecting people with drugs,” the press secretary of the Department of Homeland Security said in a Tuesday statement. 

CBP has said previously that operating a vaccine program is not “feasible” given the short period of time that migrants are in their custody.

But while CBP is technically not supposed to hold migrants for more than 72 hours, activists say both adults and children are routinely held for longer periods than that in some CBP facilities.

Dr. Hannah Janeway, an emergency medicine physician who was among the group of doctors at San Ysidro on Monday, told The Guardian that the federal government has a moral obligation to provide flu shots to migrants in their custody. 

“More people will die without the vaccine,” Janeway said. “There’s no doubt. They are being locked in cages in cold weather together, without any vaccination, in a year that is supposed to bring a horrible flu epidemic.”

CBP’s acting commissioner, Mark Morgan, told reporters Monday that the agency was reviewing its medical protocols “to see where we can improve.” He added the CBP was considering “what makes the most sense” on the issue of vaccinating migrants.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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