Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Today is the LAST DAY of this Mid-Year Campaign. This is our hour of need.
If you value independent journalism, please support Common Dreams.

TODAY is the last day to meet our goal -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki looks on during the daily press briefing at the White House on March 18, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki looks on during the daily press briefing at the White House on March 18, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Watchdog Urges Congress to Probe Whether Biden 'Bartered' Vaccines for Mexico Migration Crackdown

"The Biden administration should not be in the business of trading Mexican lives for those of other Central and South Americans, for whom migration to the U.S. is often life-saving."

Jake Johnson

A government watchdog group on Friday demanded that Congress exercise its oversight powers to determine whether the Biden administration used surplus coronavirus vaccines as a bargaining tool to pressure the Mexican government to crack down more harshly on rising U.S.-bound migration.

Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project, said in a statement that he is "concerned about the possibility that President Biden may have bartered millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to achieve his anti-migration goals."

"Congress should determine whether the U.S. is living up to its responsibilities to asylum seekers, rebuilding the U.S.-Mexico relationship undermined by Donald Trump, and acting to ensure the most rapid deployment of vaccines possible across the globe."
—Jeff Hauser, Revolving Door Project

"The Biden administration should not be in the business of trading Mexican lives for those of other Central and South Americans, for whom migration to the U.S. is often life-saving," said Hauser.

On Thursday, the Biden White House announced a plan to send 2.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to Mexico, an agreement that came amid reports that the U.S. president has been urging his Mexican counterpart behind the scenes to do more to stem the number of migrants arriving at the border between the neighboring countries. The AstraZeneca shot has not yet been approved for use in the U.S.

At around the same time the Biden administration made public its intention to grant Mexico's request for surplus vaccine doses—which the U.S. had previously denied other nations seeking access to the stockpile—the Mexican government said Thursday that it would tighten restrictions on travel through its southern border with Guatemala and its northern border with the United States. The timing immediately prompted questions about a potential quid pro quo.

Unnamed U.S. and Mexican officials insisted to news outlets that the newly announced migration crackdown did not come in exchange for the vaccine doses. "It's not a quid pro quo. It's a parallel negotiation," an anonymous senior Mexican diplomat told the Washington Post.

But White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki's roundabout answer to a reporter's direct question Thursday about whether there was any quid pro quo involved in the talks with Mexico raised eyebrows.

"There have been expectations set outside of—unrelated—to any vaccine doses or request for them that [Mexico] would be partners in dealing with the crisis on the border," Psaki said during a press briefing on Thursday. "And there have been requests, unrelated... for doses of these vaccines. Every relationship has multiple layers of conversations that are happening at the same time."

Asked whether the U.S. is using its vaccine stockpile to "effect diplomacy," Psaki responded: "I'm actually trying to convey that with every country, there's rarely just one issue you're discussing with any country at one time. Right? Certainly that's not the case with Mexico; it's not the case with any country around the world."

"I wouldn't read into it more than our ability to provide, to lend vaccine doses of a vaccine that we have some available supply on to a neighboring country where there is a lot of traffic that goes back and forth between the countries," Psaki added.

Hauser of the Revolving Door Project called Psaki's explanation for the vaccine agreement and coinciding migrant crackdown "clumsy at best" and demanded "congressional oversight" of the arrangements.

"Given the high stakes of these issues," said Hauser, "Congress should determine whether the U.S. is living up to its responsibilities to asylum seekers, rebuilding the U.S.-Mexico relationship undermined by Donald Trump, and acting to ensure the most rapid deployment of vaccines possible across the globe."

Addressing the Biden administration's decision to donate 2.5 million vaccine doses to Mexico and 1.5 million to Canada on its own terms, Public Citizen's Peter Maybarduk said in a statement Thursday that "charitable sharing and rationing" are "no substitute for the ambitious manufacturing program that the world needs and that the U.S. can provide, for a fraction of the cost of inaction."

Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy organization, argued in a report last month that a $25 billion investment in vaccine production by the U.S. would "produce enough vaccine for low- and middle-income countries" that are currently struggling to inoculate their populations. As Common Dreams has reported, the U.S. and other rich nations are currently blocking an India and South Africa-led effort to temporarily suspend vaccine-related patent rights to facilitate global production and distribution.

"As people across the U.S. appreciate this 100 million dose milestone, it is important to remember that for most of the world, there are no vaccines in sight and no foreseeable end to the pandemic," said Maybarduk. "Instead of only rationing better, the U.S. can help the world manufacture more, and ration less, and in so doing better prepare capabilities to defend against coronavirus variants that may threaten people living in the U.S.

"President Biden should announce a plan to help the world make billions of more doses of Covid-19 vaccine within a year's time," Maybarduk added. "Each day we wait to be more ambitious about our global response, more people will lose their lives."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

TODAY is the last day of our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Texas Supreme Court Allows Century-Old Abortion Ban to Take Effect

"Extremist politicians are on a crusade to force Texans into pregnancy and childbirth against their will, no matter how devastating the consequences."

Jake Johnson ·


'What's There to Even Discuss?' Omar Says Free, Universal School Meals Should Be Permanent

"We have an opportunity to prove that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people can still deliver big things. And we can feed tens of millions of hungry kids while we do it."

Jake Johnson ·


'Stark Betrayal': Biden Administration Floats New Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling

"This is the third time since November the Biden administration has announced new oil and gas leasing plans on the Friday before a holiday," said one climate advocate. "They're ashamed, and they should be."

Jake Johnson ·


As US Rolls Back Reproductive Rights, Sierra Leone Moves to Decriminalize Abortion

"I'm hopeful today's announcement gives activists in the U.S., and especially Black women given the shared history, a restored faith that change is possible and progress can be made."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Indefensible': Outrage as New Reporting Shines Light on Biden Deal With McConnell

The president has reportedly agreed to nominate an anti-abortion Republican to a lifetime judgeship. In exchange, McConnell has vowed to stop blocking two Biden picks for term-limited U.S. attorney posts.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo