Ranking Member Katko Demands Answers from DHS on Vaccine Prioritization

WASHINGTON, D.C.—House Committee on Homeland Security Republican Leader John Katko (R-NY) demanded answers from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security around its plan to distribute its limited supply of taxpayer-procured COVID-19 vaccines. With significant concern around the handling of vaccination allotments, Ranking Member Katko seeks to ensure foreign nationals in DHS custody are not prioritized ahead of our frontline law enforcement tasked with securing the border and enforcing immigration laws that are critical to national security. The oversight inquiry was spurred by recent and concerning media reports on the Department of Defense’s consideration of providing COVID-19 vaccinations to foreign nationals in their custody.

At a time when Americans across the country, particularly those in vulnerable populations, cannot gain access to the much-needed vaccine, it is critical that the Department provide clarification around its distribution plan. It is believed many officers have contracted the virus while in the line of duty carrying out their mission to defend the homeland. As a surge of migrants is headed to the Southwest Border due to the unwinding of the productive border security policies of the last four years, frontline personnel are overwhelmed and under-resourced. It is imperative that the nation’s frontline border security and immigration enforcement professionals are prioritized.

In a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Ranking Member Katko and Rep. Clay Higgins, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation and Operations state, “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.”

Read the full letter to DHS Secretary Mayorkas here.

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