The Biden administration this week announced that the travel restrictions at the Canadian and Mexican land borders will be rolled back for non-essential travel for vaccinated foreign nationals, and that in January even those engaged in essential travel will need to be vaccinated – a mandate that those entering the U.S. illegally do not face.
Non-essential travel across land borders had been shut down since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic under the Trump administration. But this week, the Biden administration announced that non-essential travelers who have been fully vaccinated will be allowed to enter the U.S. via land and ferry ports of entry.
"In alignment with the new international air travel system that will be implemented in November, we will begin allowing travelers from Mexico and Canada who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to enter the United States for non-essential purposes, including to visit friends and family or for tourism, via land and ferry border crossings," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.
In November, travelers who are vaccinated will be allowed in for non-essential reasons. Then, beginning in January, DHS will require that all inbound foreign national travelers be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide documentation to prove that.
However, that demand will not be made of illegal migrants who are encountered at the border, processed and released into the interior -- even as the Border Patrol agents processing them will also soon face a vaccine mandate.
"The health and safety of our workforce and the migrants in our care are of paramount importance," a CBP spokesperson told Fox in response to a question about whether the vaccine requirement will be extended to illegal immigrants. "We continue to monitor and reassess our COVID-19 protocols. At this time, our protocols have not changed."
While many single adults and some migrant families are quickly expelled due to Title 42 public health protections, many are not -- including a majority of migrant family units. Fox News reported this week that more than 160,000 migrants have been released into the interior, including more than 94,000 with Notices to Report to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility. None of them faced a demand to be vaccinated.
Meanwhile, CBP does not test all migrants as standard for COVID-19. CBP will inspect migrants for symptoms of COVID and refer suspected COVID-19 cases to local health systems for testing, diagnosis and treatment. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security has developed a partnership model with local organizations to test and quarantine families and reimburse the cost "provided the state does not stand in the way."
Republicans were quick to point out the lack of consistency between the approach to legal travelers and illegal immigrants when it comes to vaccinations.
"That’s extremely laughable considering the border has been open to unvaccinated illegal immigrants all year," Rep. Guy Reschenthaler tweeted.
"The Biden Administration will soon open land borders with Mexico & Canada to fully vaccinated travelers only," Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas tweeted. "Unvaccinated illegal immigrants are still welcome to cross at any time."