US-Mexico Border to Remain ClosedBy Cinthya Alaniz Salazar | Fri, 07/23/2021 - 13:23
To the disappointment of border town economies along the 2,000-mile-long US-Mexico border, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) extend its non-essential travel restrictions for another month.
These restrictions have been in place since March 2020 but do not affect cross-border trade, US citizens, lawful permanent resident, students and people traveling for medical reasons. However, as pointed out by El Paso’s County Judge, Ricardo Samaniego, US citizens are bypassing these restrictions by jumping on a plane to popular tourism spots, which also have the highest rates of COVID-19 in Mexico. These include Quintana Roo, Yucatan and Baja California Sur. In contrast, Mexicans who do not meet DHS travel conditions must remain stationary in wait of a policy change.
Businesses on both sides of the border have taken a big economic hit from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as employees and or consumers alike are kept on opposite sides of the border. According to an investigation by Rice University’s Baker Institute Center, the economic impact on these economies on the US side could amount to at least US$10 billion in losses. Just in San Diego, the Chamber of Commerce shared that the continued economic stagnation represents a running loss of US$650 million in revenue. Meanwhile, Mexico’s northern border economy accounts for almost 27 percent of the national economy, as reported earlier by MBN.
In light of this, it was unsurprising to see joint efforts by policy leaders and private business team up to ramp up vaccination efforts on both countries. According to data from the Mayo Clinic, nearly 51 percent of Texas’ population is fully vaccinated, while California stands at 60 percent.
In Mexico, 37 percent of the adult population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Deputy Minister of Health, Hugo López-Gatell. In recognition of the importance of Mexico’s northern economy, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador ramped up vaccination efforts in the region by diverting Johnson & Johnson vaccines gifted by Vice President Kamila Harris directly to the region. These doses are expected to help border municipalities reach 70 percent vaccination rates, which US authorities have placed as contingent before opening the border. Vaccination at Mexican border states is widely uneven, according to the Ministry of Health. While Baja California has a 79 percent vaccination rate, Chihuahua lags behind with only 31 percent.
Despite these efforts, it might take some time before US borders open again to non-essential travel. An anonymous source told Dallas News: “we’re looking at several more weeks, perhaps months, and a reopening may happen in phases,” or gradually, as segments of the population become fully vaccinated.
For now, economies on both sides of the border will have to grit their teeth a while longer while both countries vaccinate their populations in the midst of a more contagious variant and rising cases. Going forward, DHS has stated that it is in constant communication with its Mexican counter parts to discuss the possibility of relaxing protocols as the situation develops, with consideration for safety and sustainability.