MCALLEN, Texas – So much for getting the economy moving again.

In a major blow for border retail stores, restaurants and hotels, the Trump administration has announced it will continue to stop “non-essential” travelers from crossing bridges linking Mexico and the United States.

These “non-essential” travelers include tens of thousands of Mexican visa holders who shop in border cities such as Brownsville, McAllen and Laredo. Indeed, some estimates show that 30 percent of the shoppers that utilize La Plaza Mall in McAllen are from Mexico.

The ruling also means many border families will continue to remain split, with some stuck in Mexico unable to cross into the United States.

Reaction on social media was swift. Former government official Leticia Flores said: “This (decision) is not helping our local economy.”

Hotel manager Omar Guevara said: “Not good. Our local economy will be hurt.”

Roel Delgado agreed. “Mexico tourists spend over a billion dollars annually in the McAllen area alone. This has and will continue to hurt many businesses, hotels, cities in the RGV, Texas and have a ripple effect to the rest of the U.S. in the way of lost wages, jobs and spending power,” Delgado said.

Acting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf

An announcement that current restrictions on cross-border traffic between the United States and Mexico would continue for another month was made by acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad F. Wolf (pictured above). He said similar restrictions between the United States and Canada would also be extended for another month. 

“As I have repeatedly stated – border security is homeland security. Our efforts over the last several months to limit non-essential travel have been successful and now is not the time to change course,” Wolf said. “The President has made it clear that we must continue to keep legitimate, commercial trade flowing while limiting those seeking to enter our country for non-essential purposes. Non-essential travel will not be permitted until this administration is convinced that doing so is safe and secure.”

Wolf said his office has been in contact with his Canadian and Mexican counterparts and they agree that “extending these restrictions is prudent at this time.”

Wolf added: “We appreciate our partnership with Mexico and Canada in ensuring that North America is working together to combat the ongoing global pandemic.”

Wolf said the restrictions go into effect at 12 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on May 21, 2020 and will remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. EDT on June 22, 2020.

At the national level, Trump has been pressing for the economy to be opened up. In Texas, Gov. Great Abbott has been doing just this, easing restrictions, for example, on how many people can dine in restaurants. 

While the Trump administration cites health concerns when it comes to opening up land ports of entry, its ambassador to Mexico, Christopher Landau, has said he wants Mexico to get manufacturing going in maquiladoras. So, the U.S. wants workers living in Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros and Reynosa to return to work in factories but does not want them to spend their wages in cities like Laredo, Brownsville or McAllen. 

Truck traffic will continue to be allowed cross international bridges because commerce is deemed “essential” by the federal government.

Editor’s Note: Click here to read the new DHS order new order. The main image accompanying this news story shows dozens of Reynosa residents waiting to cross the Hidalgo Bridge. This file photo was taken before the crossing restrictions were put in place. Now, the numbers crossing the bridge have dwindled.

Wolf’s statement points out that there are more than 1.4 million confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 within the United States, 47,000 confirmed cases in Mexico, and over 76,000 confirmed cases in Canada. 

“Given the outbreak and continued transmission and spread of COVID-19 within the United States and globally, the Secretary has determined that the risk of continued transmission and spread of COVID-19 between the United States and Mexico poses an ongoing ‘specific threat to human life or national interests’,” the DHS document reads. 

Individuals deemed “essential” by the administration include:

  • U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States;
  • Individuals traveling for medical purposes (e.g., to receive medical treatment in the
    United States);
  • Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions;
  • Individuals traveling to work in the United States (e.g., individuals working in the
    farming or agriculture industry who must travel between the United States and Mexico in
    furtherance of such work);
  • Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes (e.g.,
    government officials or emergency responders entering the United States to support federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government efforts to respond to COVID-19 or other emergencies);
  • Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade (e.g., truck drivers supporting the movement of cargo between the United States and Mexico);
  • Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel;
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the spouses and children of members of the U.S.
    Armed Forces, returning to the United States; and
  • Individuals engaged in military-related travel or operations.

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