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Friday, July 23rd, 2021

Rep. Katko seeking answers from DHS on when border officials will receive COVID vaccines

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U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY) is seeking answers from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on its plan to distribute COVID-19 vaccines among its frontline law enforcement workers.

Katko, ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, expressed concerns about the handling of vaccination allotments. He wants to ensure that foreign nationals in DHS custody are not prioritized ahead of our frontline law enforcement tasked with securing the border and enforcing immigration laws.

The concerns stem from recent media reports on the Department of Defense’s consideration of providing COVID-19 vaccinations to foreign nationals in their custody. Katko said the Department must provide clarification around its distribution plan. Further, he said the nation’s frontline border security and immigration enforcement professionals must be prioritized.

“Further, we are concerned that vaccine allotments made to DHS may be offered to foreign nationals being held in processing or detention facilities before CBP and ICE law enforcement and other frontline DHS personnel, including Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Officers, the Federal Protective Service (FPS), the United States Secret Service (USSS), and others. Should this occur, the United States would be faced with yet another self-imposed incentive for migrants to make their way to our borders, exacerbating an already-strained system and putting public health in border communities and across the country at even greater risk,” Katko and Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation and Operations, wrote in a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Katko and Higgins requested a briefing by Feb. 6, 2021, on the Department’s plans to vaccinate frontline personnel, as well as answers to several questions, including when the bulk of frontline DHS personnel will be vaccinated.