DHS extends COVID vax mandate for noncitizens entering legally, as illegal entrants remain exempt

Immigration and Customs Enforcement "cannot mandate individuals in detention consent to be vaccinated," according to agency guidance.

Updated: April 21, 2022 - 11:03pm

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The Department of Homeland Security is extending the requirement for all "noncitizen non-LPRs" (those who are neither U.S. citizens nor lawful permanent residents) arriving at legal points of entry, including ferry terminals, to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19, according to a rule issued by the agency on Thursday.

Though travelers entering the U.S. through legal ports of entry will continue to be forced to show proof of vaccination, no such mandate applies to the record number of illegal immigrants the Biden administration is processing at the southern border.

The DHS announcement extends Title 19 authority to continue enforcing vaccine mandates for noncitizen visitors.

"Under the temporary restrictions, DHS will allow the processing for entry into the United States of only those noncitizen non-LPRs who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and can provide proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 upon request at arrival," reads the rule. 

The decision to extend the rule was made in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to protecting public health while facilitating lawful trade and travel, which is essential to our economic security," said DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. 

Meanwhile, those entering the U.S. illegally will remain exempt from the vaccine mandate. Immigration and Customs Enforcement continues to "apply CDC guidance through its Pandemic Response Requirements," under which "ICE cannot mandate individuals in detention consent to be vaccinated," according to the agency.

"While ICE cannot mandate individuals in detention consent to be vaccinated, all detention facilities are responsible for ensuring their ICE detainees are offered the COVID vaccine in accordance with state priorities and guidance," according to ICE's Pandemic Response Requirements. "A detainee’s vaccine status, including whether they have received a booster, must be identified during intake." 

Noncitizens traveling to the U.S. via air are required to have shown proof of vaccination status prior to boarding international flights. It is unclear when the vaccination requirement will lapse, but the department has previously stated that it is able to amend or rescind requirements at any time. 

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