Trade? Biden to send extra AstraZeneca vaccine to Mexico, Mexico to help more on border crisis

The White House is eager for the public not to view this as a quid pro quo for understandable reasons. Using a life-saving product like spare vaccines as leverage for some other policy goal would be seen as tantamount to taking innocent Mexicans hostage. “Enforce your border or we’ll sit by as more of your people die of disease” is next-level hardball negotiation.

But that’s probably what happened, right?

Remember that the U.S. is sitting on tens of millions of unused doses of the AstraZeneca (a.k.a. Oxford) vaccine, which hasn’t been approved here yet. We may be a full month away from emergency-use authorization by the FDA, and by the time it arrives we probably won’t need it. Between Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, we’re on pace to have enough doses for the entire U.S. adult population by May. What to do, then, with our AZ stockpile? It’s the cheapest of all available COVID vaccines and it’s also easy to store so it could be sold or loaned to virtually any other country without logistical difficulty.

Team Biden decided to loan some of it to Mexico. And in return — sorry, I mean in addition — Mexico will be lending a hand in easing the pressure on America’s southern border. In two ways: They’ll be cracking down more on smuggling across their own southern border to try to dam the river of unaccompanied minors from Central America and they’ll start accepting more migrant families that have been expelled from the U.S.

In recent weeks, Mexico has staged and publicized a number of anti-migration operations, largely along its southern border with Guatemala. Mexico’s national guard has raided the northbound trains that Central American teenagers ride to the U.S. border; stopped migrants with counterfeit United Nations documents; and detained migrants crammed in trailers…

The new enforcement effort will consist partially of a larger deployment of Mexico’s national guard and — unlike the train raids — will more closely target migrants traveling with smugglers, often in private vehicles…

Increased Mexican enforcement would only reduce the current volume of migration by about one-third, according to a former U.S. official with knowledge of the deal. Mexico’s agreement to accept more families is potentially more impactful, the former official said, because it will potentially ease pressure on U.S. agents, who have struggled as families with young children arrive in groups of 100 or more, similar to the 2018-2019 surge.

If that sounds vaguely familiar it’s because it resembles Trump’s policy. He too used diplomatic leverage in the form of tariffs to make Mexico more compliant in limiting immigration from the south, starting with the “Return to Mexico” policy that saw asylum-seekers housed on the Mexican side of the border. The Times points out that Mexico began easing off on internal enforcement in the final months of Trump’s term, as it no longer had anything to fear from an outgoing president. The country’s legislature also passed a law in November limiting its ability to detain minors and reportedly cited that law in January to Team Biden in explaining why it could no longer accept migrant families turned away by the U.S. Under today’s non-deal, Mexico is now willing to alter or suspend that policy.

In other words, because Biden won’t aggressively enforce the border himself for fear of making progressives mad at him, he’s bribing Mexico with vaccines to do it for him. “They get to look like the good guys and the Mexicans look like the bad guys,” explained one immigration lawyer to the NYT of Team Joe. “All the positive humanitarian policies are being done by the Biden administration and then the Mexicans are left with the dirty work.”

How long will this arrangement last, though? If you’ve happened to catch an interview lately with our director of Homeland Security, you’d be forgiven for getting the impression that the U.S. wants a gigantic influx of unaccompanied minors at the border. Just not right now, as there’s not enough capacity to process and house them yet. Just as the U.S. is “loaning” the vaccines to Mexico, expecting to have its supply replenished eventually, it sounds like Mexico is “loaning” the U.S. a little extra enforcement for a few months. The loan may come with a term, a short one.

As for the vaccine component of this arrangement, you may be wondering why Mexico would want 2.5 million doses of a product that’s currently suspended across Europe due to an idiotic panic that it might cause blood clots. Well, good news. Europe’s top drug regulator released its findings today and declared that there’s no evidence the AstraZeneca vaccine causes clotting:

The European Union’s drug regulatory agency said Thursday that the AstraZeneca vaccine doesn’t increase the overall risk of blood clots and that the benefits of using it outweigh the risks, paving the way for European countries to resume dispensing the shots…

“The committee has come to a clear scientific conclusion,” said the head of the EMA, Emer Cooke. “This is a safe and effective vaccine.”

She added: “If it were me, I would be vaccinated tomorrow.”

Good work by European governments squandering precious days to vaccinate their people and inculcating an unfounded suspicion about AZ’s vaccine among those who are reluctant to get vaccinated. Here in North America, not only is Mexico getting 2.5 million doses from the U.S. but Canada is getting 1.5 million too to help accelerate their vaccination program. Which is good policy by the White House, and not just because it builds goodwill with neighbors. Given how much cross-border traffic we do with both countries, it’s in our own self-interest that the pandemics in Canada and Mexico end as quickly as possible. Mexico in particular has been ravaged by the disease, recording the third-highest death toll on Earth with nearly 200,000 killed by COVID. They’re only slightly behind the United States in deaths per capita, in fact. If anything, we might want to release more of our AZ stockpile to them to help them build immunity faster.