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Congress urged to probe whether Biden used vaccines as bargaining chip in immigration talks with Mexico

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

A government watchdog group has demanded that the US Congress investigate whether the Biden administration has used coronavirus vaccine deliveries to pressure the Mexican government to curb the stream of migrants crossing the border into the United States.

Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project that scrutinizes executive branch appointees to ensure they use their office to serve the public interest, said he was “concerned about the possibility that President Biden may have bartered millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to achieve his anti-migration goals.”

“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,” Hauser said in a statement on Friday.


RELEASE: The Revolving Door Project calls for Congressional oversight of the Biden Administration pressuring the Mexican government into turning away migrants at the Mexico-Guatemala border, and whether it bartered doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

— Revolving Door Project (@revolvingdoorDC) March 19, 2021


On Thursday, the White House announced a plan to send 2.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to Mexico and another 1.5 million to Canada. AstraZeneca has not yet been approved for use in the United States.

The announcement came at a crucial time in negotiations with Mexico, with reports suggesting that President Biden has been quietly pressuring his Mexican counterpart to do more to restrain a wave of migrants making their way across the border into the US.

American agents at the southern border have been witnessing a surge of migrants in recent weeks as Biden has rolled back some aspects of former president Donald Trump’s harsh immigration policy.

In a video call this month, Biden asked President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico whether more could be done to help resolve the problem.

Just as the Biden administration agreed to send millions of doses of vaccines to Mexico, something it has denied other countries requesting access to the stockpile, the Mexican government said it would restrict travel though its northern border with the US.

The timing immediately promoted speculations about the possibility of a quid pro quo.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki's roundabout answer to a reporter's blunt question Thursday about whether there was any agreement behind the scenes in talks with Mexico further 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,” she added.

Hauser of the Revolving Door Project called Psaki's explanation of the situation “clumsy at best” and demanded “congressional oversight" of the arrangements.

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

The US government said this week it is facing the highest number of migrants reaching its border with Mexico in 20 years.

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