Migrants that enroll in the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” program which President Biden plans to reinstate as soon as next week will be offered to receive free COVID-19 vaccine, media outlet Axios reported on Wednesday, citing unidentified government officials.
Biden’s administration is poised to resume sending migrants back to Mexico, complying with a federal court order to restore Trump’s key immigration policy, forcing them to stay there while waiting months or years for immigration court hearings to determine if they’ll be granted asylum in the US.
Trump implemented the policy in 2019 to help reduce migrant flows.
Although the move is contrary to Biden’s campaign promise,” a federal judge ruled in August that the government must reinstate the program, officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), it deemed ‘cruel’.
He’ll now try to tweak MPP by offering free Covid-19 vaccinations to all adult migrants who are sent back to Mexico but none will be required to take them. It’s also yet to be determined at what point in the process the migrants would be able to get the vaccine – before being turned back when they return to the US for their court hearing or at some other time.
Despite DHS efforts to comply with the court order as promptly as possible, the whole idea of reinstating MPP is actually at the mercy of Mexico’s cooperation and willingness to accept the migrants turned back since the US must have an independent agreement from the Government of Mexico to accept migrant chosen to enroll in MPP.
It is expected for the vulnerable populations to be exempted but it’s unclear who’d fall under that category, or how will DHS decide who gets placed in the program.
Although it prepares to comply with the court order, Biden’s administration it’s taking steps meanwhile to again cancel MPP, with US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issuing last month a new memorandum scrapping the policy hoping it will pass legal muster this time.
GOP Sen. Ted Cruz accused Mayorkas last week of intentionally slow-walking and refusing to comply with the court order, stressing that illegal border crossings in 2021have surged to a 61-year high.