While many Maryland residents wait patiently to receive their government-funded COVID-19 vaccine, the state’s two biggest counties—both illegal immigrant sanctuaries—have launched a “special clinic” to inoculate 600 Latinos a week. The exclusive operation will be stationed at the Adventist HealthCare facility in Takoma Park, which is situated in Montgomery County, Maryland’s most populous. The shots will also be offered to Latinos who live in nearby Prince George’s County. Recipients will be “preselected” by an area open borders group, Casa de Maryland, and a Latino Health Initiative launched by Montgomery County two decades ago. In a statement announcing the venture public officials claim that it will help overcome inequities in the vaccine rollout as well as general health disparities that plague poor minority communities.
Judicial Watch is investigating the special Latino clinic, including how the vaccine candidates are chosen and the criteria used by public officials and Casa de Maryland to screen who qualifies. Is it based on a person’s looks, name, or proof of lineage? Judicial Watch has repeatedly tried to contact public officials involved in the project and media representatives for both counties as well as the Adventist HealthCare public relations person listed in the announcement, but calls have gone unanswered. In the name of transparency, Judicial Watch launched Maryland Public Information Act requests for both counties seeking, among other things, the eligibility criteria for individuals who want vaccinations in the special clinic and records identifying the reasons for limiting it to Latinos and excluding other races, ethnicities, or groups. The public records requests also ask both counties for any analyses of whether limiting the vaccination program to Latinos is consistent with state and federal law, including but not limited to the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Taxpaying Americans have the right to know the details surrounding this exclusionary venture involving a government-funded vaccine intended for all the nation’s residents. The shots were created as part of a Trump administration initiative called Operation Warp Speed to accelerate the development, production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and deliver 300 million doses. The U.S. reportedly invested $18 billion on the project which involves several key government agencies—such as the Department of Defense (DOD), Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—and private companies.
Elected officials in the two Maryland counties offering Latino’s priority say it is essential to promoting equitable vaccine distribution. The Vice-Chair of the Prince George’s County Council, Deni Taveras, claims special clinics like the one catering to Latinos are “crucial for helping close the disparity gap.” Montgomery County Council President Tom Hucker asserts that the new inoculation site will help address and overcome “the inequities in our state’s vaccine rollout.” Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz said the Latino project will “help bridge the health inequities imposed by this lethal virus.” The director of the county’s Latino Health Initiative, Sonia Mora, says the public-private vaccination partnership is a bridge for local governments to “overcome inequities and gaps facing the most vulnerable among us.”
Montgomery County launched the Latino Health Initiative , which receives hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars annually, to develop and implement a culturally and linguistically competent health wellness system that values and respects Latino families and communities. The initiative promotes a comprehensive and holistic approach to health and wellness by working with stakeholders throughout the county to enhance programs and services targeting Latinos, develop models and services for Latinos and advocate for policies and practices that effectively reach the county’s Latino communities. Among the county health program’s “partners and collaborators” is Casa de Maryland, a nonprofit that operates day laborer centers for illegal immigrants which are partially funded with public money.
This is hardly the first case involving the discriminatory practice of a local government when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine distribution. In late February Judicial Watch reported that Virginia shifted its vaccine distribution to prioritize black and Latino residents as white 85-year-olds struggled to get the shot. At the time the state was vaccinating the population in phases, with healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities receiving utmost priority. With that population completed, according to the Virginia Department of Health, the second group included a peculiar combination of frontline workers, people 65 and over, those with medical conditions, incarcerated criminals and those living in homeless shelters or “migrant labor camps.” Then the state shifted to give preference to black and Latino residents 65 and over while much older white seniors, many in their 80s, failed to secure an appointment.