PROGRESSO, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Border communities have been saying for months that they are disproportionately hurt by ban on non-essential travel into the country through overland ports of entry.
Next month, after several extensions during the pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security is ending its 19-month ban on non-essential travel from Mexico and Canada.
The Southern border was closed in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic and has remained closed to tourists and people hoping to shop in the United States since. Representative Henry Cuellar, who represents Texas’ 28th Congressional district, said it was time to allow legal visa holders to cross the border again.
One of the complaints people had about the travel ban was it didn’t actually stop anyone from coming to the U.S., it just stopped people from crossing the bridges to spend money in border communities.
“Why is it that Mexicans could fly in, but if you drove you couldn’t do that? Why is it that the undocumented aliens were coming in and that was okay?” asked Cuellar.
Details on when exactly the ban will be relaxed are murky. The U.S. embassy website shows that the limit on land crossings at ports of entry to essential travel expire on October 21 at 11:59 P.M. The ban might end then, but according to Cuellar, non-essential travel won’t be allowed again until November.
The ban will be rolled back in two phases: First, in November, non-essential travelers who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to come into the United States. That means that “tourists, family members to see their families, or come shop” will be allowed to come to the United States and do those things for the first time in 19 months.
Second: in January, anyone who enters the country will have to be vaccinated with a vaccine that is either approved for use in the U.S. or is approved by the World Health Organization.
- Moderna (both)
- Pfizer (both)
- Johnson & Johnson (both)
- Oxford/ AstraZeneca
- Serum Institute of India Covishield
- Sinopharm BBIBP
- Sinovac Coronavac
Currently, essential travelers like truck drivers do not have to show proof of their vaccination status to get into the country, but Cuellar said that “non-essential will have to show proof of vaccines” in order to continue to be allowed to transport goods in the country. He advised companies that do ship goods through the ports of entry to make sure their drivers are vaccinated ahead of time.
The details of the plan are still being worked out but there is an interest in making the process as smooth as possible, no one wants to see long lines waiting to cross the bridges.
“Hopefully Customs will just be looking at: do you have your proof, yes or no,” Cuellar said. “And not go into detail that will create lines and lines and lines. All we want is for people to get their vaccines. On the U.S. side, on the Mexican side.”
Cuellar said that not having shoppers, tourists, and family visitors from Mexico means the border communities and Texas have missed out on $19 billion.
Allowing non-essential travel again will help start recouping those losses. “It means more money for our local economies” and those businesses will hopefully “go ahead and hire employees so they can start running their businesses.”