Mexico to step up vaccinations along US border ahead of reopening

US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is in Mexico to discuss immigration and border security.

People waiting to receive the second dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine during a mass vaccination in Mexico City, Mexico [File: Henry Romero/Reuters]

Mexico aims to gradually lift pandemic-related restrictions along its shared border with the United States as it progresses in vaccinating the local population against COVID-19, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Tuesday.

Ebrard said the reopening of the border will be discussed with US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas who arrived in Mexico late on Monday.

“Mexico is going to make an extraordinary vaccination effort in order for our cities to have similar standards to those of the United States in terms of vaccination,” Ebrard said during a regular news conference.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard speaking during a news conference as Mexico aims to gradually lift pandemic-induced restrictions on its shared border with the United States [Luis Cortes/Reuters]

The goal is to ensure Mexico’s frontier cities have the same level of protection against COVID-19 as US cities so there is no longer an argument to uphold restrictions, Ebrard said.

“Once we reach that stage which will begin today all along the border, there would be no sanitary argument to maintain these restrictions,” he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mexico received a consignment of some 1.35 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines from the US that will go towards inoculating Mexican border residents aged 18 and above, the government said.

The vaccine shipment will be used to vaccinate anyone over the age of 18 in four cities along the US border: Tijuana, Mexicali, Ciudad Juarez and Reynosa.

The US and Mexico have restricted border crossings to essential travel since early in the pandemic. But pressure is now building on both countries to ease those restrictions in order to resume commercial traffic.

The issue of border closures is tied to concerns about migration and Mayorkas is expected to hold a series of meetings with Mexican officials on Tuesday in an effort to find ways to curb migration to the US.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas is scheduled to speak with Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and other officials on Tuesday [File: Lynne Sladky/AP Photo]

Mayorkas is scheduled to meet with security and immigration officials.

Mexico is a critical US partner in its effort to stem the rising flow of migrants fleeing from poverty and gang violence in Central America and making their way to the US-Mexico border.

At the US’s urging, Mexico has reinforced its own southern border with Guatemala with National Guard in order to block migrants from making their way north.

Official statistics show that more than 180,000 people were apprehended at the border in May, a 20-year high and up slightly from April numbers.

Earlier in June Vice President Kamala Harris travelled to Guatemala and Mexico in order to find ways to reduce migration from the region.

From Guatemala, she urged would-be migrants not to come.

The US-Mexico border near Tijuana, east of San Diego, California [File: Mike Blake/Reuters]

Since taking office in January, the administration of President Joe Biden has continued to expel the vast majority of migrants arriving under a health provision put in place by former President Donald Trump last year.

Biden, who campaigned on a promise to establish a more welcoming approach towards migrants, has been under political pressure to demonstrate that his policies are keeping the border secure.

His Republican rivals accuse him of creating a crisis at the border by reversing Trump’s major anti-immigration policies, while rights groups have blasted his policies of restricting asylum as a violation of international legal obligations.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies