The Biden administration will allow individuals to travel from Mexico to the United States as long as they are vaccinated, a more restrictive protocol than how it handles illegal aliens.
On Tuesday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced the relaxation of travel rules for those crossing the border from Canada and Mexico. But his message contains no language about illegal aliens or asylum seekers, meaning they are still free to cross into the country regardless of their vaccination status or whether they test positive for COVID-19.
"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," Mayorkas said in a statement. "Cross-border travel creates significant economic activity in our border communities and benefits our broader economy. We are pleased to be taking steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner."
The Biden administration lacks a comprehensive COVID-19 testing protocol for illegal aliens and asylum seekers taken into custody by Customs and Border Protection, per a September inspector general report. DHS began offering COVID-19 vaccines to migrants, but it has not made them mandatory.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas) welcomed the easing of border restrictions but called into question Biden's willingness to address illegal immigration.
"The president has done nothing to address the vaccination status for the hundreds of thousands of people illegally crossing our southern border," McCaul said. "The inaction to implement across-the-board standards to people entering our country is bewildering and irresponsible as we are seeing the largest border crisis in 21 years."
The rules for legal travel to the United States are more restrictive than the Biden administration’s proposal to force firms with more than 100 employees to require proof of vaccination or a weekly negative COVID-19 test to work in an office. Unlike restrictions in some cities—such as New York, which only requires a single shot to enter places such as restaurants or gyms—one dose of a vaccine will not allow foreigners entry into the country.
Border restrictions against Mexico have been in place since March 2020 following a directive from the Trump administration. Mayorkas's announcement did not say whether children, who cannot receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Mexico, fall under the new rules.
The lack of vaccine mandates for illegal aliens or asylum seekers is a regular point of criticism against the Biden administration. Republicans have questioned why the administration issues more restrictive mandates against U.S. citizens and legal residents than lawbreakers. Since entering office, President Joe Biden has weakened Title 42—a federal law that empowers the Centers for Disease Control to pause virtually all immigration during a pandemic—by crafting exemptions for unaccompanied minors and family units.