Doctors still fighting to vaccinate CBP detainees after protest arrests

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SAN DIEGO — One day after several doctors were among the protesters arrested outside a local Border Patrol facility, demonstrators gathered again Wednesday to demand flu shots for detained migrants.

A group of protesting doctors and healthcare professionals from across the country held a news conference and waved signs near the San Ysidro Port of Entry throughout the morning, marking the third demonstration in as many days.

The doctors say they are outraged by the death of at least three children in Customs and Border Protection custody during the 2018-2019 flu season.

CBP says it has never been their practice to administer vaccines to detained migrants, and doctors have been denied entry to facilities to give free flu shots.

Physicians lined up outside the Border Patrol San Diego Sector headquarters in Chula Vista Tuesday, saying they wouldn’t leave until agents let them in to administer vaccines. Some laid in the street until agents removed them, and four doctors were among the six people arrested.

The group Doctors For Camp Closures helped organize the protest. One of their leaders, Danielle Deinas, said she met with agents and the sector chief.

“They wanted to express they did care about this issue,” Deinas said. “As much as I would love to believe that they were sincere, I really won’t know that until they do something tangible.”

Authorities at detention facilities say their system is designed for short-term stays, and that preventative shots have never been provided on site.

“It has never been a CBP practice to administer vaccines and this is not a new policy,” a CBP spokesperson said.

“Individuals in CBP custody should generally not be held for longer than 72 hours in either CBP hold rooms or holding facilities. Every effort is made to hold detainees for the least amount of time required for their processing, transfer, release or repatriation as appropriate and operationally feasible.”

Last winter, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended border officials amend their policy on vaccinating detainees.

“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,” authorities told CNN regarding the recommendation.

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