ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues, there is one group in the state that may be afraid to get vaccinated. Local advocacy groups say the immigrant population is nearly impossible to reach to get their shots for a number of reasons. Nearly 240,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in New Mexico. But not everyone is jumping at the chance to register for the shots.
“They’re afraid their information may be shared with law enforcement. In particular immigration officers and people don’t like to be known where they are what they are doing because they fear they may be deported,” says Nkazi Sinandile, Volunteer Program Director, Immigrant, and Refugee Resource Village.
It’s a concern plaguing Latino immigrants across the country. Many of them make up a large portion of the workforce in industries where they have a high risk of exposure. “Like in every aspect of our life. Racism has pervaded medicine as an institution. We haven’t really rooted out these challenges and these barriers that these families face,” says Antonio Granillo, Community Advocacy Manager, Partnership For Community.
Local advocacy groups, Partnership for Community Action and Immigrant and Refugee Resource Village, says distrust isn’t the only setback. They believe there are communication barriers within the registration process. “For a lot of families providing so much information in a virtual format is pretty daunting. Not only is the hotline already very strapped for people. But it’s even more so for those who are able to speak in Spanish or another language,” says Granillo.
Advocates say the key to getting the immigrant population vaccinated will be through relationships built with local partners to make them feel safe. “So you kind of like have to tell them this is going to be a safe place no police will be around and all your information is not going to be shared with immigration officials and it’s up to them to believe you or not,” Granillo says.
The New Mexico Department of Health says the state is not requiring proof of residency or immigration documentation for vaccinations. And they will not share immigration status information with the federal government. According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are more than six million immigrant workers on the frontlines and have been the hardest hit during the pandemic.