A half-dozen protesters — several identifying themselves as physicians — were arrested Tuesday outside the U.S. Border Patrol’s Chula Vista station while demanding flu vaccinations for detained immigrant children, three of whom reportedly died from the virus this year while in federal custody.
The demonstrators, part of a group of about 100 rallying in front of the station on Boswell Road, were taken into custody by Department of Homeland Security officers in the early afternoon, according to the Border Patrol and news reports from the scene.
Just prior to being detained, some of the protesters allegedly lied down across a driveway leading to the station and refused orders to disperse. They were then arrested, cited for failing to comply with police and released.
The protesters, many clad in medical smocks, told reporters that doctors offering free flu-clinic services on Monday were turned away from the facility.
In a message posted on Twitter, Department of Homeland Security officials posted a statement reading: “Of course Border Patrol isn’t going to let a random group of radical political activists show up and start injecting people with drugs.”
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection statement issued in response to the controversy asserts that the agency cannot administer vaccines because its policy is to “hold detainees for the least amount of time required for their processing, transfer, release or repatriation as appropriate and operationally feasible.
“As a law enforcement agency, and due to the short-term nature of CBP holding and other logistical challenges, operating a vaccine program is not feasible,” the statement continued.
Three influenza deaths of migrant children while in U.S. custody have been reported over the last year, prompting physicians’ groups to call on Congress for an investigation into health care at border facilities.