30% of DHS employees poised to miss vaccination mandate deadline

A migrant and her daughter have their biometric data entered at the intake area of the Donna Department of Homeland Security holding facility, the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley, in Donna, Texas, Tuesday, March 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills, Pool)

Thousands of Department of Homeland Security employees are poised to fall out of compliance with the president’s executive order requiring COVID-19 vaccination, according to an internal email obtained by The Monitor.

“More than 70% of our employees have already provided their vaccination status in the VSS [Vaccination Status System] or their Components system of record,” Randolph D. “Tex” Alles, DHS deputy under secretary for management, wrote in an email addressed to all employees on Nov. 8.

Monday, Nov. 8, was a critical date.

If a federal employee was vaccinated with the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine by then, Alles explained, they would be considered fully vaccinated by the agency’s deadline of Nov. 22, according to CDC standards.

Federal agencies were instructed to create a program requiring COVID-19 vaccination for all their employees, with exceptions only as required by law, via President Joe Biden’s executive order issued Sept. 9.

Border Patrol agents manning checkpoints and processing migrants, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigators who investigate drug trafficking, and Office of Field Operations officers at the ports of entry are some of the agencies that fall under the Department of Homeland Security.

As of Monday, 30% of the employees had yet to receive a vaccination, ask for a delay or request a religious or medical exemption.

“I understand that some of you may be on the fence or even against getting the vaccine,” Alles wrote. “DHS and the American people value you and the work you do, which is done often at great personal sacrifice.”

Customs and Border Protection has reported 51 deaths due to COVID-19 and 11,920 confirmed cases among its employees since the start of the pandemic.

“However, we all must do our part to move past this pandemic and the first step is everyone getting vaccinated,” Alles continued, adding the consequences of failing to comply. “Employees who do not comply with the requirement to become vaccinated will be subject to formal discipline, up to and including removal from federal service.”

Employees were encouraged to reach out to the Employee Assistance Program to sort through any “negative feelings” they may be experiencing.

A CBP spokesperson provided this statement: “Federal agencies, including CBP, are laser-focused on vaccinating their workforce ahead of the November 22nd deadline for Federal employees. Like other Federal agencies, we are continuing to collect vaccination information from employees as we approach the deadline.”

The statement did not respond to other questions detailing the specific consequences for failing to meet the deadline.