(Trends Wide) — The White House is again considering vaccinating migrants apprehended at the US-Mexico border, but no decision has yet been made, according to a senior administration official.
The Biden administration is currently offering COVID-19 vaccines to immigrants detained by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and to unaccompanied minors in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services. But the latest proposal would apply to migrants found at the southern US border and released on US soil while awaiting court hearings.
The proposal, which originated in the Department of Homeland Security, applies to migrants ages 5 and up and would prioritize families. The plan, first reported by Axios, also requires people to have a second dose to be eligible for parole, a legal mechanism to live and work in the US.
Previous proposals to vaccinate immigrants have been rejected by White House officials, the sources told Trends Wide.
Trends Wide has contacted the White House for comment.
The Biden administration has relied on a Trump-era public health order, known as Title 42, to quickly expel migrants arrested at the US-Mexico border. On Wednesday, the Justice Department defended the use of the controversial policy before a federal appeals court.
During oral arguments, Justice Justin Walker said that despite the evolving state of the pandemic, more precautionary measures can be taken, citing vaccinations. “This is not March 2020,” he said.
Justice Department attorney Sharon Swingle argued that the government cannot rely on vaccines to prevent transmission of COVID-19 at border facilities. “Vaccines are more widely available, but vaccinating someone at the time of encounter does not reduce the risk that person could spread COVID in a congregate setting in the days after vaccination, when the vaccine is not yet effective,” he said. Swingle to the three-judge panel.
ICE facilities have recently seen a spike in coronavirus cases. As of Tuesday, 2,224 immigrants in ICE custody have tested positive for COVID-19. There are 21,805 immigrants detained by ICE.
For migrants eligible for release in the US, the administration has increasingly relied on available alternatives to detention programs in order to “increase compliance with release conditions, court appearances, and final orders of removal,” according to ICE.