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Compulsory COVID vaccination for immigrants seeking permanent residence

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PHOENIX – Immigrants to the United States must now be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of an update to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services policy that went into effect on Friday.

The update, which applies to those seeking permanent residence in the United States, adds COVID-19 to a list of mandatory vaccinations against diseases such as polio, measles, mumps and hepatitis , according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A waiver is available for immigrants under the age of 12, immigrants who have potentially harmful reactions to vaccinations, or those who cannot easily get vaccinated due to limited supply.

Ruben Reyes, a Phoenix-based immigration attorney, doubts a challenge to the update will succeed.

“I don’t see this going away,†Reyes said, noting that it would most likely be confirmed in a federal court. “There are many precedents, as well as a lot of public data now available in the one and a half, almost two years of this pandemic, that vaccines are effective in alleviating deaths from the disease. “

Reyes cited the 1918 influenza pandemic as a precedent example, where community and government measures, such as isolation, quarantine, and limitation of social gatherings, were implemented to limit the spread and infection. .

Reyes said the percentage of those who would refuse to emigrate because of this vaccination requirement would likely be “very, very low,” with most applicants complying to avoid further delays.

“It’s not cheap – immigrating to the United States is not quick,†Reyes said. “Most of these people have been waiting for a year, two years, three years. Some people have had their process suspended due to the pandemic. “

Reyna Montoya, founder and CEO of the Phoenix Aliento immigration advocacy group, said immigration processes can be difficult to navigate, even for her. They can be particularly difficult for those whose first language is not English. Another layer of complication is the bias on COVID-19 vaccines.

“That’s what’s really unfortunate because sometimes these big agencies make decisions that impact different people around the world,†she said.

“It doesn’t appear at this time, at least, the USCIS guidelines don’t make it clear whether the United States will be responsible for providing this vaccine to people who wish to undergo this medical examination,” Montoya said.

Citizenship and Immigration Services declined to comment.

On September 9, President Joe Biden announced a vaccination mandate requiring federal employees, government contractors, and healthcare workers in hospitals participating in Medicare / Medicaid to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Private sector companies with 100 or more employees must also require vaccination or weekly testing, according to Biden’s COVID-19 “Exiting the Pandemic” plan.

The administration’s efforts have met with opposition from Republican governors and politicians, including Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich, both of whom have pledged to initiate legal and administrative proceedings to block warrants.

From October to December 2020, 41% of immigrants who obtained legal permanent residence in the United States were from Mexico, India, China, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines and Brazil, according to data from the Department of Homeland Security.

Of those six countries, Mexico, the Philippines and India have the lowest fully vaccinated population rates – 35.72%, 22.42% and 17.38%, respectively on Friday – according to data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center.

China, the Dominican Republic and Brazil have 74.97%, 45.61% and 43.05% of their populations fully vaccinated against COVID-19, respectively.


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