Last week, the Biden administration finally found a use for the executive branch’s power to exclude foreign citizens from entering the United States that it can get behind — unvaccinated truckers. Starting on January 22, the Department of Homeland Security began to require all non-U.S. individuals seeking to enter the United States via ports of entry at the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders to be “fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination”. These restrictions apply to those traveling for essential reasons, like trucking. Unlike the vaccine mandates on employers, federal contractors, and federal employees struck down by courts recently for exceeding executive authority, this action is based on the executive branch’s extremely broad power to exclude aliens from entering the country and thus is not likely vulnerable to challenge in court. But from a policy standpoint, it is hard to imagine how the benefits of excluding temporarily present unvaccinated foreign nationals — who spend most of their time in the United States in a truck — could possibly outweigh the drawbacks of further exacerbating the supply chain crisis.
Moreover, it is impossible to square DHS’s concern over a few thousand truckers entering the country unvaccinated with its determination over the past year, even at times when Covid case rates exploded, to open the southern border to all comers. In the Biden administration’s first year in office, the Border Patrol apprehended over two million illegal crossers at the southern border — with no way to check their health or vaccination status. Satisfying the open-borders lobby is clearly more important to this administration than making sure Americans don’t face empty shelves in their stores.