Illegal immigrants continuing to cross into the U.S. from Mexico were not included in a wide-ranging COVID-19 vaccine mandate announced Thursday by President Joe Biden that could force an estimated 80 million American workers to get the shot.
According to the president, all employers with over 100 employees will be forced to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine or require weekly testing for their staff. Additionally, at least 17 million healthcare workers in facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid will have to be fully vaccinated.
However, Biden did not require the vaccine for illegal immigrants, despite the nearly 30 percent of immigrants currently held in federal detention facilities refusing the vaccine – an option they are given, according to Fox News.
More than 18 percent of illegal immigrant families who unlawfully entered the United States earlier this year tested positive for COVID before being released by Border Patrol. At least 20 percent of illegal immigrant unaccompanied minors also tested positive for the coronavirus.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s DHS is not vaccinating illegal immigrants, but “other international organizations” are vaccinating them as they cross the border.
When asked about how the Biden administration’s measures are keeping people safe in places like McAllen, Texas, where more than 7,000 COVID-positive illegal immigrants have been released since February, including 1,500 one one week last month, Psaki responded, “Well, I think it’s important to note what’s actually happening in McAllen. So, there’s actually been a — they signed a disaster declaration, approved setting up a temporary emergency shelter to provide a space — to create an isolated space to mitigate this issue.”
Biden’s new vaccine policy will be implemented through the Department of Labor, and businesses that reject the policy could face penalties up to $14,000 per violation, a senior Biden administration official said, according to the Washington Post. Companies will also be required to give workers paid time off to receive the vaccine under the new rules.
“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin,” Biden warned in his announcement Thursday. “While America is in much better shape than it was seven months ago when I took office, I need to tell you a second fact: We’re in a tough stretch and it could last for a while.”
As president-elect, Biden said he would not make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory.
“I don’t think it should be mandatory. I wouldn’t demand it be mandatory,” Biden said. “But I would do everything in my power – just like I don’t think masks have to be mandatory nationwide – I’ll do everything in my power as President of the United States to encourage people to do the right thing and when they do it, demonstrate that it matters.”