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Detroit Health Department: Immigration enforcement will not take place at TCF vaccine clinic

a woman in scrubs puts on gloves in front of a car
Beenish Ahmed
Michigan Radio

Undocumented immigrants in Detroit who opt to get the COVID-19 vaccine at the TCF Center, which serves as the city’s main vaccination site, will not be targeted by immigration enforcement according to the Detroit Health Department. 

“As of now, there is no sign of this and the site is accessed, controlled and any unusual federal activity would be flagged by the TCF staff,” Detroit Health Department nurse Hannah Ewing said at COVID313, a virtual townhall on Thursday. The event was hosted by the Community Education Commission, a nonprofit organization that partners with the City of Detroit, and 482Forward, a community advocacy organization focused on education. 

Ewing said that those who qualify for the vaccine can register for a shot with identification that shows their date of birth.

“A passport from your home country is fine,” she said, “and you can also call the center to make an appointment and ask if the document you have is applicable during this time when you call. Nobody is collecting any immigration status.” 

Ewing added that the city will offer translation services in several languages for those who call to make a vaccine appointment at the TCF Center, and is working to increase outreach to undocumented people to share this information. 

Her remarks were in response to questions posed by participants of last week’s COVID313 event about vaccine access for undocumented immigrants in the city. The event is a weekly panel held over Zoom and broadcast on Facebook Live which features city officials and local leaders on issues related to the pandemic.

Michigan Radio reached out to Immigration and Customs Enforcement about the agency’s current or planned activities among undocumented people seeking vaccines in Detroit, but did not receive a response by the time of this publication. 

The city has administered just over 23,700 vaccines of 39,350 doses received as of Wednesday night, according to the Detroit Health Department. 

In addition to Hannah Ewing, the most recent event on Thursday also featured Rochelle Riley, Director of Arts and Culture for the City of Detroit, Felix M. Valbuena of the Community Health and Social Center, Iranetta Wright, the Deputy Superintendent of Schools for Detroit Public Schools Community District, and Wafa Hassan, the Arabic Department Director at Global Educational Excellence.

Beenish Ahmed is Michigan Public's Criminal Justice reporter. Since 2016, she has been a reporter for WNYC Public Radio in New York and also a freelance journalist. Her stories have appeared on NPR, as well as in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, VICE and The Daily Beast.