BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Border leaders have expressed their dismay that travel restrictions from Mexican visa holders is being extended by another month.
There will now be a third consecutive month where travel deemed non-essential is denied between Mexico, the United States and Canada. The restrictions were first imposed March 20.
Non-essential travel is defined as visits to see family, to go shopping or to go on vacation. The extended restrictions will remain in place until at least July 21.
“The Texas Border Coalition is disappointed, but not surprised by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s decision to extend the current restrictions on non-essential travel between the U.S., Mexico and Canada for another month,” said Eddie Treviño, Jr.
“As Texas and Mexico continue to lift restrictions based on improved health results, there is no basis for these endless constraints on non-essential travel that hurt border communities and businesses suffering economically, more than they already have due to the COVID-19 crisis.”
Treviño is chairman of the Texas Border Coalition and Cameron County Judge. In early June, Treviño wrote to the acting commissioner for U.S. Customs & Border Protection, Mark Morgan, urging the Trump Administration to let the travel restrictions lapse.
“We must protect minority-owned small businesses, cross border trade, and the influence of daily travelers between our countries who invest in binational commerce through the goods and services they acquire,” Treviño said.
“At the same time, we must encourage proper safety precautions and safeguards for people traveling across the border and for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel who engage with the public.”
The Texas Border Coalition is a collective voice of border mayors, county judges, economic development commissions focused on issues that affect 2.5 million people along the Texas-Mexico border region and economically disadvantaged counties from El Paso to Brownsville.
In the past week, Treviño has held two news conference. At each one he has asked why border communities are being singled out for special, negative, treatment. He has noted that the rest of the U.S. is being opened up following the COVID-19 lockdown.
“It is imperative that we resume non-essential travel by re-opening land ports of entry with sufficient lanes to maintain traffic flow and a full complement CBP staff that are adequately outfitted with personal protective equipment,” Treviño said.
“The sound and expeditious operations at our land ports will ensure that individuals are able to contribute to our binational economy in a rapid manner. We need people conducting crucial commercial activities, not waiting in line at the international ports of entry.”
Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz is a former TBC chairman. He has a similar view to Treviño when it comes to opening up border bridges.
“The City of Laredo fully understands the threat of the novel coronavirus and will continue to work to keep all residents safe. We respect the difficult decision by DHS to continue travel restrictions at the border until July 21, but we also know that this will further complicate economic recovery efforts in border communities,” Saenz said.
“Trade and essential travel remain unaffected by this decision, yet much of our local economy depends on shoppers and visitors from both sides of the border. I ask our leaders in Austin and in Washington that when they are drafting relief bills to place special attention on border communities such as ours that are being uniquely affected in more ways than one.”
Saenz said both the United States and Mexico must do more to prevent further outbreaks and hotspots so that cross-border business and daily life can continue.
“It is up to every person to follow health guidelines and minimize the spread of the coronavirus by practicing good hygiene, wearing face coverings, maintaining social distancing and avoiding crowds. Only by working together can we flatten the curve and stop the spread,” Saenz said.
The San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce is also disappointed by the decision to extend border travel restrictions. Last week the group sent a letter to Wolf that was similar in tone to the one sent by TBC to CBP’s Morgan.
“As California and Mexico lift restrictions based on improved health results, our local, county and state officials have implemented policy, practices and procedures to keep our businesses, employees and community safe in the face of infected visitors,” said Jason Wells, executive director of the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce.
“We ask for the opportunity to enact these policies while reestablishing our livelihood.”
Mexico’s Foreign Ministry sent out a tweet on Tuesday announcing the extended border travel restrictions.
“Mexico and the United States have agreed to extend for 30 days more restrictions on nonessential land traffic on their common border, after reviewing the development of the spread of COVID-19 in both countries,” Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said on Twitter.
“The restrictions will remain in the same terms as implemented since March 21. Both countries will continue coordinating sanitary measures in the border region.”
The acting commissioner of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is Chad Wolf. He said:
“The Department of Homeland Security will ensure that the measures taken at our borders will protect America from all threats, including threats against the health and safety of our citizens. Based on the success of the existing restrictions and the emergence of additional global COVID-19 hotspots, the Department will continue to limit non-essential travel at our land ports of entry with Canada and Mexico. This extension protects Americans while keeping essential trade and travel flowing as we reopen the American economy.
“The Department of Homeland Security is in close contact with our Canadian and Mexican counterparts regarding this extension, and they agree on the need to extend their non-essential travel restrictions as well. I look forward to continue working with our neighbors to maintain essential trade and travel while protecting the health of our respective citizenry.”
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows a pedestrian carries supplies as he enters Texas after crossing over from Mexico at the Gateway International Bridge, Friday, March 20, 2020, in Brownsville, Texas. (Photo: Eric Gay / Associated Press)
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