After 597 days, non-essential travelers let back into U.S.

Local News

PROGRESO LAKES, Texas (KVEO) — It has been 597 days since non-essential travel from Mexico was banned. As of Nov. 8, that ban has been lifted. For people with family across the border, today is a long-awaited day.

“It’s exciting news, we’re all very happy,” said Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez on the ports of entry being reopened.

There are five land bridge ports of entry in Hidalgo County. Cortez said they have already seen travelers from all over Mexico crossing into the United States.

“[The ports of entry] were seeing Mexican license plates from many many different states,” he said. And not all of the travelers were just here to visit the cities immediately on U.S. side of the border.

Cortez said that several travelers were “asking for permits” so they could “go beyond the Rio Grande Valley”.

During the pandemic, you could fly into the country but land bridges were always closed.

Now, people are eager to drive and see the family they haven’t seen in person in over a year. Just in time for the holidays and holiday shopping to help border economies recover.

“We’re in very uncertain times right now, so we can use all the help we can get,” Cortez said about the economic situation along the border.

Henry Cuellar, who represents Texas’ 28th U.S. Congressional district that encompasses parts of the Rio Grande Valley, has said in the past that Texas and the border economies have lost billions due to the border being closed.

In a press conference about the border situation in October, Cuellar said that Texas was “getting 18 million Mexicans that would come in and spend $19 billion” before the pandemic.

Cortez, who was mayor of McAllen from 2005 until 2013, said international shoppers have always played a key role in local city economies on the U.S. side of the border.

“All of the evidence that [the city of McAllen] received was at least one-third of our sale’s tax revenue or our sales were attributable to shoppers coming in and shopping from Mexico. That’s a pretty significant percentage,” Cortez said.

Traffic at Progreso International Bridge wasn’t too bad early in the day, and Cortez said he had heard the situation was the same at the other four bridges. He expects to see traffic pick up as we get closer to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Every non-essential traveler who wants to cross into the U.S. needs to be fully vaccinated with a vaccine either approved for use in the U.S. or approved by the World Health Organization.

Those vaccines are:

  • Moderna
  • Pfizer/Biontech
  • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
  • Oxford/ AztraZeneca
  • Serum Institute of India Covishield
  • Bharat Biotech Covaxin
  • Sinopharm
  • Sinovac

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