Beginning Oct. 1, anyone applying to become a lawful permanent resident or for refugee status will have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, federal officials said last week.
Vaccinations will be mandatory for all those seeking acceptance into the United States. The announcement followed a FOX News reporter pressing White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on why refugees at the southern border were not required to get vaccinated.
Who Will it Impact?
According to the Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative, there are 900,00 immigrants in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, Tulare, and San Joaquin counties. Of that number, 260,000 are documented and 331,000 are undocumented. The remainder are naturalized citizens.
Fresno County accounts for 67% of Latino immigrants, 90% of undocumented Latinos, and 72% of Latinos who are lawful permanent residents, the CVIC says.
While the number of refugees accepted into the U.S. rises or drops with the administration in power, a recent report by Reuters states that the Biden administration intends to increase the numbers of refugees up to 125,000. The current cap is 62,500.
The previous Trump administration had a cap of 15,000 refugees being accepted into the country.
Linda Barreto is the professor of law director for San Joaquin College of Law’s New American Legal Clinic. Barreto says her office does not accept refugee applications but does assist at least 50 individuals each year with their adjustment of status applications.
For the 2020 fiscal year, the Department of Homeland Security approved 707,362 permanent residency applications — one of the lowest numbers in several years.
CVIIC Director Jesus Martinez says he has heard from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fresno office that about 10,000 individuals applied for U.S. naturalization before the COVID-19 pandemic. That number has since dropped to about 8,000-9,000, he said.
Mandates Will Prompt Increase in COVID-19 Vaccinations: Experts
With efforts to get as many people vaccinated in the country as soon as possible, the update in vaccine requirements by the U.S. could kick-start more mass vaccinations in the country.
According to the Fresno County Department of Public Health, Latino/Hispanics make up 55.37% of the county’s population and have suffered 51.5% of the COVID-19 deaths.
Martinez says the Delta variant has made many who are hesitant more likely to get the vaccine and the number of those interested in getting vaccinated has definitely increased.
“Like every other part of the country, there are some people who don’t want to get it for one reason or another,” said Martinez. “Some for religious reasons, some fear side effects that may or may not be true, and some people were having trouble getting off work to get the vaccine. So, that’s why we’re still involved in outreach campaigns getting the word out and why it’s important to get it, and that it’s safe to do so.”
Said Barreto: “I would say that a small percentage of my clients have shown a hesitancy but not many. The medical exam that is required for the adjustment of status or refugee process already requires several vaccines and thus it seems as though many of my clients are not opposed to taking the COVID-19 vaccine.”
FCDPH data shows 41.9% of the Hispanic/Latino population is currently vaccinated.
What Are Current Requirements and the Changes?
The reason for these new requirements, says Barreto, is because a medical exam is not required for citizenship or green card renewals. However, new arriving refugees do receive medical examinations.
The requirements taking effect on Oct. 1 require hopeful applicants to show proof they have received both doses of either Pfizer and Moderna or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
For those applying within the U.S., they’ll have to submit the Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record (Form I-693).
Requirements for vaccination records have been in place for many years, while others are often determined by the CDC in the interest of public health.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)2 requires vaccinations for: Mumps, measles, rubella, Polio, Tetanus and diphtheria toxoids, Pertussis, Haemophilius influenza type B, and Hepatitis B.
Meanwhile, the CDC requires vaccinations for, varicella, Influenza, Pneumococcal pneumonia, Rotavirus, Hepatitis A, Meningococcal, and now COVID-19.
Who Falls Under Exempt?
Children under 12 won’t be required to have received a COVID-19 vaccine.
Those who are pregnant or have immunocompromised conditions will also be eligible for a waiver.