Which is more important to our government:
- The prosperity of the retail sector along our side of the U.S.-Mexico border, or
- The health and welfare of the American people?
And which group of the unvaccinated are treated more gently by the authorities:
- Mexican nationals with border cards and other tourists, or
- U.S. citizens employed by many firms, who face loss of jobs if not vaccinated?
If you picked the first choice in each instance you would be, unfortunately, correct, and you would have to read between the lines of the latest announcement by DHS Secretary Mayorkas on the subject to understand the situation.
These strange priorities can be ascertained if you have been following the reporting of my colleague Todd Bensman on the southern frontier and my own blog posts on the differential treatment of the virus by our government at our northern border (tight as a drum) and on our southern one (loosey goosey).
The secretary’s most recent pronouncement on the subject was all upbeat and was headlined: “Secretary Mayorkas to Allow Fully Vaccinated Travelers from Canada and Mexico to Enter U.S. at Land Borders and Ferry Crossings”.
Before we get into the substance of this, there is a bit of verbal sleight-of-hand in that headline, which I noticed as an old government PR hand. Canada, which is absolutely no threat to us virus-wise, is mentioned first and gets equal billing with Mexico, which has a much worse approach to the virus. Further we get many times as many entrants from Mexico as from Canada. Similarly, “land border” crossings get equal billings with ferries. There is only one ferry at the southern border, at Los Ebanos, Texas, and only a handful on the northern one, carrying perhaps 0.1 percent of the total traffic.
The secretary announced that fully vaccinated Mexican and Canadian travelers arriving for non-essential purposes would be allowed in starting sometime next month. He went on to announce that similar arrangements would be made “in early January 2022" for essential and non-essential entries from other countries. He wrote about the two frontiers as if they had been treated equally, which is far from the case.
What his announcement did not mention was the fact that while the traffic through the ports on the northern border has fallen to about 1/30th of normal (as of July), the ports were operating at about half capacity on the southern border.
This was the case because both the U.S. and Canada made crossings the exception, not the rule, while at the other border, out of deference to border-area commerce, we decided that Mexican shoppers were on essential errands every time they crossed. In other words, we decided that the nation’s health was less important than the prosperity of businesses on our side of the border. (I personally believe that vaccine mandates are good public policy, and that those who seek to avoid vaccination are either misguided, selfish, or both.)
DHS also has been much slower than the rest of the government to cope with the virus. It was only on October 1 that the comparatively small inflow of legal immigrants (I estimate about 45,000 a month with adjustments excluded) was limited to those who are fully vaccinated, and even here there were large loopholes. Meanwhile, the dates for meeting vaccine mandates came more quickly for U.S. citizens, often enforced by their employers.
So, in a sense, the unvaccinated foreign tourist or border crossing card holder is being treated more leniently than the U.S. citizen who must get vaccinated or get fired. Who says we are not nice to foreigners, even sick ones bearing diseases?