The U.S.-Mexico border will remain closed to nonessential travel until July 21. The Trump administration said it would extend existing restrictions on nonessential travel at land ports of entry with Canada and Mexico due to continued risks from the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“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,” U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement. “This extension protects Americans while keeping essential trade and travel flowing as we reopen the American economy.”
The travel restrictions had already been extended several times and were set to expire on June 23, according to a related U.S. government notice. DHS informed the latest extension would run for 30 days.
The restrictions were first announced in mid-March and were extended in April, May and now in June.
Nonessential travel will be curtailed at land ports of entry, but travel deemed “essential” will still be permitted and includes work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care, and safety and security. Trade will also continue.
Nonessential travel is considered to be tourism, or recreational in nature. Examples include sightseeing, gambling or attending a cultural event. All the people who do not meet the essential criteria will be returned to Mexico.
But border leaders do not agree with this nonessential travel restrictions and, in early June, they sent a letter to the White House urging nonessential travel between U.S. and Mexico to resume.
In the letter, IBC Bank chairman and CEO Dennis Nixon, Texas Border Coalition chairman Eddie Trevino Jr., The Borderplex Alliance CEO Jon Barela, and Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz asked Chad Wolf to allow the current travel restrictions to expire. The letter describes how devastating the restrictions have been to small- and medium-sized businesses along the U.S. and Mexico border.
“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 Jr. wrote in the letter. “The pandemic has put a halt to this critical exchange of business and has left border cities economically paralyzed.”
They say these businesses make up most of the retail, medical, and tourism industries, while Mexican shoppers represent over 50% of all retail sales in most Texas border communities.
The group also outlines the detrimental impact the closure has had on budgets of both municipalities and counties that rely heavily on crossing tolls and sales tax revenues.