U.S. officials deny access to doctors seeking to give flu shots to migrant children

Date: 
December, 2019
Country: 
United States of America

A group of doctors, who last month pressured U.S. Customs and Border Protection to allow them to give flu vaccines to detained migrant children, have now taken their fight to the driveway of a detention facility in San Ysidro, Calif., and said they are not leaving until they get approval.

About 40 people, including medical doctors licensed to practice medicine in California, marched Monday from Vista Terrace Neighborhood Park to the detention facility, calling for CBP to let them in or let the children out to participate in a free mobile clinic they set up outside. They were joined by at least an additional dozen medical students and supporters.

Three children died from the flu while in federal immigration custody during the past year.

Holding signs saying “No more flu deaths” and “Children don’t belong in cages,” the doctors chanted and sang. Some of them spoke about their own personal journey to the United States as migrant children in the country illegally.

Though the agency did not respond directly to the doctors’ demonstration, a CBP spokeswoman replied to a media inquiry, and the agency issued a response to a Nov. 5 letter the medical professionals sent to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security requesting access to administer flu vaccines.

Dr. Sirac Cardoza, who practices family medicine and just completed his residency at Brooklyn Hospital Center, said he crossed the border as a 7-year-old boy, fleeing Nicaragua.

“My mother literally carried me on her shoulders through the river. And 17 days in a desert. Walking, with very little food. I don’t know how we made it,” Cardoza said.

After that, Cardoza said he promised his mother he would spend his life helping people and he became a doctor.

He said he imagines what the children being detained must be feeling.

“Fear. Fear. I can’t imagine being ripped away from my mother. I remember holding onto her for dear life. ... It was dark. There were bushes everywhere. And I just remember seeing the clothes of people, the wet clothes they left behind,” he said, about when he crossed into the United States.

Cardoza said he hopes the groups protesting, including Doctors for Camp Closure, Families Belong Together and Never Again Action, can raise awareness, appealing to mothers and others who care for children.

Source: La Times