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Undocumented workers at Nebraska meat plants will NOT get COVID vaccines

Undocumented immigrants in Nebraska will not be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines, Governor Pete Ricketts announced Monday. 

Ricketts, the son of TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, was asked at a press conference if undocumented persons would be included when vaccines become available to meatpacking plant workers. 

‘Illegal immigrants are not permitted to work in those facilities, so I don’t think that will be a problem,’ the governor replied without further explanation.

In reality the issue is much more complicated, as undocumented workers make up a large section of Nebraska’s meatpacking industry – which is the largest in the US with roughly 26,600 workers in total. 

According to recent data from the Migration Policy Institute, some 66 percent of the state’s meatpacking workers are immigrants, and varying estimates suggest that anywhere between 14 percent to almost all of them are undocumented.  

Throughout the pandemic meatpacking plants have served as major hotspots for virus transmission, as workers spend hours standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the line and crowd into locker rooms to change their clothes before and after shifts. 

More than 44,500 coronavirus cases and 232 deaths have been linked to processing plants around the US, according to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

Over 5,200 of those cases and 22 deaths came from 23 separate outbreaks at plants in Nebraska. 

Undocumented immigrants in Nebraska will not be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines, Governor Pete Ricketts (pictured) announced Monday

More than 5,200 COVID-19 cases and 22 deaths have been linked to meatpacking plants in Nebraska, which employ a large number of undocumented workers (file photo)

More than 5,200 COVID-19 cases and 22 deaths have been linked to meatpacking plants in Nebraska, which employ a large number of undocumented workers (file photo)

The Trump administration has given states free rein to decide how vaccines are distributed, with each state taking a slightly different approach. 

Before the rollout kicked off last month some administration officials suggested having vaccine recipients provide information such as a birth date, driver’s license or passport number to help track the rollout’s success. 

But some governors, including Andrew Cuomo of New York, pushed back against such a mandate, saying that it would prevent many immigrants from getting the vaccine. 

Even without an information mandate, experts fear that many undocumented immigrants may be unwilling to come forward to get vaccinated for fear of being detected by immigration officials. 

Immigration groups across the political spectrum have outwardly voiced support for making vaccines available to undocumented individuals, because leaving them out due to their status could put all Americans at higher risk for contracting the virus. 

Don Kerwin, executive director of the nonpartisan think tank Center for Migration Studies, said last month: ‘Not vaccinating a group because of their immigration status would be both inhumane and counterproductive from a public health perspective.’ 

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a staunchly conservative group that advocates for a total moratorium on immigration, shared a similar view.  

‘Public health experts should determine who should be prioritized for the vaccine,’ FAIR spokesman Ira Mehlman said on the issue, per USA Today. ‘That means people at greatest risk, and at the greatest risk of infecting others.’  

More than 44,500 coronavirus cases and 232 deaths have been linked to processing plants around the US, according to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

More than 44,500 coronavirus cases and 232 deaths have been linked to processing plants around the US, according to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting 

Throughout the pandemic meatpacking plants have served as major hotspots for virus transmission, as workers spend hours standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the line and crowd into locker rooms to change their clothes before and after shifts (file photo)

Throughout the pandemic meatpacking plants have served as major hotspots for virus transmission, as workers spend hours standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the line and crowd into locker rooms to change their clothes before and after shifts (file photo)

But Ricketts’ administration apparently doesn’t agree with that approach for Nebraska.  

In his Monday press conference, the governor did not clarify how officials would go about preventing undocumented workers from getting vaccines when they are made available to meatpacking plant populations. 

DailyMail.com has reached out to Ricketts’ office for comment. 

Ricketts said the state had administered 87,000 vaccines to date, with priority given to health care workers and long-term care residents and staff. 

He said the state will enter Phase 1B of its vaccination plan in the next two weeks, which will allow people over the age of 75 to start receiving jabs. 

It is unclear when meatpacking plant workers are scheduled to become eligible. 

Nebraska has recorded 169,000 coronavirus cases and 1,672 to date.  


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