RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas – Governmental bodies in Starr County have given their support for a plan devised by the Starr-Camargo Bridge Company for Mexican nationals to get their Covid-19 vaccinations at the Rio Grande City bridge.

The bridge company, Starr County, the City of Roma, and the City of Rio Grande City have each written to U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar asking for his support. The congressman’s job is to persuade the White House to allow a pilot program to be carried out at the Starr-Camargo International Bridge.

Cuellar said on a recent webinar that he supported the initiative, along with similar pilot programs in Laredo and Brownsville. The project would be beneficial to border communities because it would allow more Mexican nationals to cross into their communities to shop. Starting Nov. 8, land ports of entry on the Mexican and Canadian borders will be open again to so-called “non-essential” travelers, provided visa holders from Mexico and Canada have been vaccinated. The land ports of entry were closed to such travelers in March 2020 in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Here are the letters the various entities have penned and sent to Cuellar:

Starr-Camargo Bridge Company


October 18, 2021

U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar 2372 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Representative Cuellar,

Thank you for your leadership in Congress on important border security issues. South Texas is grateful to you. After being closed since March 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on October 15th that international borders will finally open to fully vaccinated non-essential travelers beginning on November 8th. DHS also announced that, beginning in January 2022, all travelers, including those on essential business, will be required to be fully vaccinated. 

Sam Vale
Sam Vale

These requirements, while welcome developments in the fight against COVID-19, present tremendous logistical challenges for those tasked with enforcing them at Ports of Entry (POE) along the southern border. I write today to request your assistance in securing cooperation from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in a pilot program to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to Mexican nationals at a land port of entry as a condition of entry, beginning immediately.

As you know well, communities along the U.S.-Mexico border depend on the ability of Americans and Mexicans to freely, and legally, cross through land ports of entry for their economic well-being. Prior to the pandemic, more than four million Mexicans legally crossed into the U.S. daily to work, shop, and visit U.S. towns and cities. Thousands of American businesses benefit from a symbiotic relationship with Mexico and will similarly benefit from a workforce protected from COVID-19.

As mentioned, the requirement that even essential business travelers must be vaccinated presents significant challenges to ports of entry. Failure to properly implement a vaccine requirement will result in profound downstream effects through the American economy, especially now given delays in the international supply chain. Land ports of entry such as the Starr-Camargo Bridge Co. in Rio Grande City, Texas have the infrastructure and community good-will in place to begin offering COVID-19 vaccinations to Mexican nationals prior to their admission into the U.S., in partnership with CBP. In the interceding months, CBP should work with POEs to develop the infrastructure to administer vaccines in advance of the requirement, and even after the requirement date to increase vaccination rates and boost international commerce.

A pilot program with CBP to offer COVID-19 vaccines to essential and non-essential travelers at land ports of entry will reinvigorate a critical sector of international trade. The positive externalities from a reopened border and higher vaccination rates will provide economic and social boosts to border communities. Given prior cooperation on restricting travel, repatriating citizens, distributing PPE and vaccines, and facilitating commerce, the U.S. and Mexican governments have the capacity to pilot a vaccination program through open LPOEs.

Thank you for your consideration,

Sam Vale

President

Starr-Camargo Bridge Co.

City of Roma


October 21, 2021

U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar 2372 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congressman Cuellar,

Roma Mayor Jaime Escobar, Jr.

I am writing on behalf of the City of Roma to support the development of a POE Vaccine Pilot Program. We strongly support the effort of getting our neighbors south of the border, who can travel to the U.S., fully vaccinated. It is in our community’s best public and economic interest to assist Mexican nationals traveling into the United States to get vaccinated so that we can return to a state of normalcy in a quick and safe way.

As a region, our economy relies heavily on international trade and commerce. Our economy has been greatly affected by the pandemic. The negative economic impact has been compounded by the restriction of non-essential travelers. Without a concerted vaccine effort targeting travelers, or a widespread attempt to accommodate unvaccinated essential and non-essential travelers into the U.S., our local economies will continue to suffer. We also understand the risk an influx of unvaccinated population might have on our region. To date, Mexican nationals are only 35.9% vaccinated. We need to do more to ensure those crossing over are vaccinated.

The City of Roma, together with local pharmacies, are prepared to assist with this Vaccine Pilot Program. Roma is committed to the safety and well-being of our citizens and our neighbors. We thank you for everything you do for the citizens of Roma and hope you can help make this effort a reality.

Yours sincerely,

Jaime Escobar, Jr.,

Mayor

City of Roma

Rio Grande City


October 22, 2021

U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar 2372 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515

Re: Bi-national Vaccination Efforts

Dear U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar,

As a municipality, Rio Grande City’s mission is to provide quality municipal services in partnership with our citizens to build a progressive city and to provide a better quality of life for all our residents.

Rio Grande City Mayor Joel Villarreal

On behalf of Rio Grande City, I would like to emphasize our goal to seek and fortify regional growth and prosperity. Since 1848, Rio Grande City has been a destination to achieve the American Dream. However, in the recent months COVID-19 has been a damper to our economy in terms of halting growth of international trade as well as inciting fear in terms of public health. Furthermore, close proximity to Mexican municipalities unable to obtain vaccines instills a disconnect from close relatives that live just across the border. With approximately 95.2% of our residents who primarily speak Spanish, you can imagine the effects this separation has brought onto the mental well-being of our community in the long months behind us.

In partnership with local entities, a successful Bi-national Vaccination Clinic served as a pilot program for non-vaccinated travelers. This effort provided a smooth demonstration and solution to our regional challenges. We vow to continue to protect our community and answer all concerns.

Rio Grande City will aggressively support this initiative by working with local and federal governments backed by the support of local businesses to provide the best quality of life for our residents. We hope you will consider vouching on behalf of our diverse American community to grow this effort.

Sincerely,

Joel Villarreal

Mayor of Rio Grande City

Starr County


October 20, 2021

U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar 2372 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Representative Cuellar,

Starr County Judge Eloy Vera

As County Judge, we have been fully committed to delivering safe and effective vaccines to our residents in a quick and safe manner. This effort has been vital to protect the health and well-being of our community, so we can return to normal day to day activities. We are very fortunate to have very strong public and private partnerships that have allowed us to reach a 90% vaccination rate, but as a border community our efforts must go further. Our economy, like that of our state and nation, relies heavily on international trade and commerce as a pillar of our continued growth. As we prepare to re-open our ports of entry for all fully vaccinated visitors we want to make certain that every possible precaution is taken to ensure we keep our community and nation safe. We also fully recognize the value and importance of welcoming those travelers that have been denied entry into our country for over a year and the contribution these consumers make to our economic prosperity.

As part of our overall strategy and in anticipation of the upcoming November 2021 reopening date, we believe that a pilot program utilizing local POEs to expand vaccination efforts is critical to accommodate the vaccination mandate for border travelers. To assure the program’s success, we additionally have multiple local pharmacies that can assist in the initiative and can leverage the use of college nursing students and certified EMT’s as vaccine administrators.

We fully support the development of the POE Vaccine Pilot Program and look forward to collaborating with all our partners to engage in an initiative that will return us to a robust economy, while protecting our public health.

Sincerely,

Sincerely,

Eloy Vera,

County Judge

Starr County 

Editor’s Note: To read about the efforts to set up a Covid-19 vaccination program at the Brownsville land port of entry, click here.


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