USCIS has issued a new order, effective October 1, that immigrants must be fully vaccinated before they can be admitted to the U.S. as lawful permanent residents.
That’s welcome news, but the policy is late in arriving, is too narrow, and is full of loopholes. The first question is: Why just for green cards? Why is anyone allowed to enter the country, U.S. citizen or alien, nonimmigrant worker or tourist, without being fully vaccinated?
The second question is: Why October 1, when many other populations, such as the military, had earlier deadlines?
The third question is: Why are there so many loopholes in the new policy that was announced on September 14?
The policy is not a sweeping one, unfortunately, because it is linked to only one part of the admissions process, as the announcement read:
[A]pplicants subject to the immigration medical examination must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before the civil surgeon can complete an immigration medical examination and sign Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record.
The big loopholes include these (again direct quotations from the announcement):
[USCIS] may grant blanket waivers if the COVID-19 vaccine is:
- Not age-appropriate;
- Contraindicated due to a medical condition;
- Not routinely available where the civil surgeon practices; or
- Limited in supply and would cause significant delay for the applicant to receive the vaccination.
No one can object to the first two, but let’s think about the second two, which certainly should not be applied to those adjusting status within the U.S., where vaccine supplies are ample (if shunned by some).
OK, so the would-be green card holders are arriving from one of those countries with limited access to the vaccine. Why not make those aliens come to one of many selected ports of entry (excluding some of the less-used ones) where USCIS could give them a shot during the admissions process. Surely there is enough Covid-19 money floating around to fund such a program. The aliens would be given the single Johnson & Johnson shot, so that there would be no need for a follow-up.
The phrase “significant delay for the applicant” suggests that a public health policy, designed to save both citizen and alien lives, is less important than the individual alien’s convenience, a sure sign of the Open Doors at All Costs mentality.
My colleague Art Arthur pointed out to me that the policy also does not cover the illegal aliens apprehended at the border. We certainly should be vaccinating all of them whether they are returned to their homeland, sent back to the Mexico to wait for asylum hearings, or waved through to U.S. locations. Such a policy would not only protect all of us — including resident illegal aliens — but would be a gift to the populations of other nations.
One thought process that USCIS apparently missed: We are not only dealing with a captive population here, we are dealing with a set of individuals who are about to get the biggest benefit of their lives, legal admission to the U.S. Unlike some Republican governors, they will not resist. Why not make the requirement really, really mandatory?
And speaking of captive populations, the U.S. should be making sure than everyone seeking an immigration benefit within this country, and everyone in detention, or in a jail, or in a prison should be vaccinated fully. To save all of us, we need to make vaccinations as numerous as possible.