Administration’s top priority is to ensure ‘every American is vaccinated’ before sending supplies to other countries, press secretary says
“The President has made clear that he is focused on ensuring that vaccines are accessible to every American. That is our focus,” Ms Psaki said.
“The next step is economic recovery — and [part of] that is ensuring that our neighbours, Mexico and Canada, have similarly managed the pandemic so that we can open borders and build back better. But … the administration’s focus is on ensuring that every American is vaccinated. And once we accomplish that objective, we’re happy to discuss further steps beyond that.”
Mr Biden and Mr Lopez Obrador were scheduled to meet at a virtual summit later on Monday.
Mr Lopez Obrador has spearheaded a publicity campaign among poorer countries to pressure their richer counterparts to share Covid vaccines and treatments, saying the current distribution is “totally unfair.”
So far 50m Americans have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine. In Mexico that number is just roughly 2.5m.
In a press briefing at Mexico’s National Palace on Monday before the summit with Mr Biden, Mr Lopez Obrador laid out his agenda:
“The issues: Covid, this is important to us. Above all, vaccines.” He added that “migration” would be another major topic of conversation.
Mr Biden’s Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, told reporters at the White House on Monday that the US immigration system would need time to “rebuild out of the depths of cruelty” overseen by the previous administration.
“The prior administration dismantled our nation’s immigration system in its entirety. When I started 27 days ago I learned that we did not have the facilities available or equipped to administer the humanitarian laws our Congress passed years ago,” Mr Mayorkas said.
The DHS secretary urged people who are considering seeking refuge in the US by crossing the border with Mexico to hold off for now.
“They need to wait. It takes time to rebuild the system from scratch,” he said.
“If they come, we are obligated to, in the service of public health, to impose the travel restrictions under the CDC’s authorities and return them to Mexico. … Families and single adults are in fact being returned under the Covid-19 restrictions.”
Every week, thousands of migrants have been crossing the southern border into the US, straining US Immigration and Customs Enforcement resources.
Mr Mayorkas nevertheless refused on Monday to categorise the border situation as a “crisis.”
“We are challenged at the border,” he said. “The men and women at the DHS are meeting that challenge. It is a stressful challenge.”