President Joe Biden said during an interview Friday that undocumented immigrants should be able to have access to the Covid-19 vaccine without fear of deportation.
“I want to make sure they all are able to get vaccinated and so they're protected from Covid, without the ICE or anyone else interfering," Biden said. "They should not be arrested for showing up for being able to get a vaccination."
Biden made the comments during an interview with Spanish-language news outlet Univision after visiting a coronavirus vaccination facility in Texas, a state that has also been devastated by winter storms and power outages. The president said his $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package currently moving through Congress will include an increase in nutrition benefits, among other areas, to help those impacted by the pandemic and weather-related disasters.
Biden's comments underscore a policy shift compared to the previous administration, which drew criticism for the enforcement efforts of ICE. The new administration has put an emphasis on equity, including when it comes to vaccine distribution. His administration's Covid-19 vaccine plan targets underserved communities as well as undocumented immigrants.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a Jan. 28 press briefing that the administration wants everyone, including undocumented immigrants, to have equitable access to the vaccine.
“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," she said.
The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also issued a statement on Feb. 1 that the agency "will not conduct enforcement operations at or near vaccine distribution sites or clinics."
It added, "Consistent with ICE’s long-standing sensitive locations policy, ICE does not and will not carry out enforcement operations at or near health care facilities, such as hospitals, doctors' offices, accredited health clinics, and emergent or urgent care facilities, except in the most extraordinary of circumstances."