The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will be expanding its vaccination policy at the southwestern U.S.-Mexico border, requiring some migrants who are taken into custody to get immunized against COVID-19.

“The effort to vaccinate those in our care and custody, which is a public health best practice, has been ongoing for many months,” a spokesperson for the department told The Hill in a statement.

“DHS has been providing the COVID-19 vaccines to noncitizens in ICE custody since summer 2021,” they added. “In order to further safeguard public health and ensure the safety of border communities, the workforce, and migrants, DHS is now expanding these efforts and requiring that noncitizens taken into CBP custody for further immigration processing at the Southwest land border be given age-appropriate COVID-19 vaccines.”

This new policy was first reported by The New York Times. According to the sources who spoke to the newspaper, migrants who lack proof of vaccination and are not expelled under the public health order will be required to get vaccinated in seven areas, including San Diego, El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley.

The Times reported that those who refuse to get vaccinated will be placed into deportation proceedings. Migrants who request asylum and refuse to get immunized will be released with a monitoring device and “stringent conditions.”

This new policy could indicate a shift in the U.S. border policy as both federal, state and local authorities seek to move on from pandemic-era guidelines.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, many migrants seeking to enter the U.S. have been turned away under the health provision Title 42. It was invoked by the Trump administration after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was necessary, and the Biden administration has continued to uphold it.

However, modification have been made to the policy, with the Biden administration adding exemptions for unaccompanied children in 2021.


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