The Biden administration will reportedly offer COVID-19 vaccinations to illegal immigrants in US custody at the southern border, amid record crossings and a surge in infections nationwide.
The Department of Homeland Security will provide the single-dose Johnson & Johnson jab to migrants soon after they cross the border and wait to be processed by US Customs and Border Protection, two agency officials with knowledge of the plan told The Washington Post.
So far, only a limited number of illegal immigrants have been inoculated while held in longer-term US Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities, according to the paper.
One of the officials said the shots would be given to illegal immigrants facing deportation as well as those likely to be released into the US pending a court hearing.
Migrants who are quickly returned to Mexico under the Title 42 public health law would not be offered the vaccine, at least at first, the source told the outlet on condition of anonymity.
The single-dose regiment of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is better suited to a transient population that may not be able to coordinate a second dose, the officials explained.
DHS rep Meira Bernstein told the paper in a statement that the department will “continue to monitor and reassess” its pandemic protocols, but insisted that no decisions have been made.
“At this time, our protocols have not changed,” she said, though officials familiar with the plan say the vaccination effort could help mitigate the Delta variant’s rapid spread on both sides of the border.
In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and other Biden opponents have blamed the president’s border policies for spreading the deadly bug.
Meanwhile, ICE officials will be sent to parts of the southern border to assist overburdened Border Patrol officers with processing migrants, Axios reported.
The ICE agents will also begin placing ankle bracelets on illegal immigrants who have been processed but released without a date scheduled for their appearance in immigration court to track their whereabouts, the report said, citing a Homeland Security official.
Because of the massive number of illegal immigrants being processed, some are released in the US and told to report to ICE when they reach their final destination, but many never show up.
The bracelets are viewed as an incentive for them to contact an ICE office.
The developments come as the Associated Press reported that the number of unaccompanied children picked up at the border by US immigration officials likely reached an all-time high in July.
The number of families arriving in the US will hit its second-highest total on record, according to the report.
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also announced that it had renewed a policy allowing the expulsion of illegal immigrants due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.