(WAVY) — The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO) recently reassured residents their immigration status would not prevent them from getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
Leaders with FEMA say U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not conduct enforcement operations at or near federally-run vaccine distribution sites or clinics.
In 2016, an estimated 3.4% of Virginia’s population was made up of undocumented immigrants. It may not seem like much, but when you’re considering only 24.6% of the population is vaccinated, that 3% makes a difference in the effort to reach herd immunity.
“For those individuals in our community that may be undocumented, we want to send a message and say that services are provided free of that type of danger,” says Beatriz Amberman with the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO).
10 On Your Side sat down with Amberman shortly after FEMA sent out their reminder.
She says it’s important to reach that community because immigrants do make up a large part of Virginia’s working class. The American Immigration Council reports 17% of the state’s labor force was made up of immigrant workers in 2018.
Amberman also says the language barrier created a lack of accessible information to many immigrants, keeping them from getting vaccinated. After realizing this, she says VACOLAO stepped up to bridge that gap by translating important coronavirus updates in Virginia on their social media.
One of those translated updates addressed a large concern among documented and undocumented immigrants: what to bring to a vaccination site.
Amberman says a common misconception is that a lack of state-issued identification or social security number means you can’t get vaccinated, which isn’t the case.
“The only thing they [vaccine recipients] have to present is a form of identification and it doesn’t even have to be an ID. Just something like a receipt, something that has your name and address, and that’s basically it,” she says.
At the end of the day, Beatriz, along with those at VACOLOA and FEMA, wants residents to know they can be vaccinated without their immigration status being questioned.
“Because people in our community have died from COVID-19,” says Beatriz. “So we want to avoid that. To make sure that they are vaccinated is the first step in protecting themselves and those around them.”
For our Spanish speaking viewers, Beatriz left a message reiterating this.
You can find continued information and resources on from VACOLOA here.
Stay with WAVY.com for more local news updates.