Christmas has come early to the border region, and the main gift for hundreds of thousands of tourists will arrive on November 8.
Elected leaders and businesses on Wednesday celebrated the long-awaited announcement of the reopening of non-essential travel at the U.S.-Mexico border after 19 months of unsustainability.
“For too long, restrictions at our border have separated families and devastated businesses that depend on cross-border trade,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.
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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has confirmed that travel restrictions at the land borders of Mexico and Canada will be lifted in November, so travelers will be allowed to enter the country for non-essential activities, such as tourism and visits to family members. that they are fully vaccinated.
“Cross-border travel generates significant economic activity in our border communities and benefits our economy as a whole. We are happy to take steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.
On Friday the 15th, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard announced on Twitter that the opening date would be November 8.
The restrictions were first imposed in March 2020 due to the pandemic and have been extended monthly since then.
The decision could not have come at a better time, given the proximity of the holiday season, authorities agreed.
“This announcement will allow businesses in the region to take advantage of the opportunities presented by Christmas shopping, in addition to traveling during this time,” Gloria said.
During the period March 2020 to March 2021, more than 200 businesses closed in San Ysidro, representing a loss of 1,900 jobs, according to the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce.
Jason Wells, director of the chamber of commerce, said about 60% of businesses in San Ysidro make the bulk of their profits for the year during the season which runs from November 20 (a national holiday in Mexico) to January 6 (Three Kings Day) .
For this reason, he said he was relieved that the reopening of the border was scheduled for next month. “Most businesses that are open today would not have survived without another holiday season.”
Carlos Guerrero, owner of the Elite Tactical store in San Ysidro, admitted that at first he didn’t believe the news of the border reopening in November because he was already used to hearing it month after month only to be disappointed. each time another extension was announced.
But knowing that there is an official announcement from the US government, he could not hide his emotion, because a month and a half ago he had decided to change his company from Chula Vista to San Ysidro with the hope that his company would be better once. reopen the border.
Guerrero sells tactical gear, boots and blankets, among other paraphernalia, which were typically purchased by police officers making the trip from Mexico.
“Hopefully the sales will increase a bit, both with the Mexican customers I had before and with the new customers, because now I’m closer to the line,” Guerrero said.
Wells said once the border reopens, a period of business recovery will begin.
County Supervisor Nora Vargas introduced a resolution calling on the federal government to provide economic opportunity to businesses and communities impacted by these travel restrictions.
“We urgently need to identify economic stimulus for these families, communities and businesses,” Vargas said in a statement. “I urge the federal government to take a hard look and create emergency economic sustainability zones to directly revive our border communities. It is time we were given a fair chance for full economic recovery,” he added.
Wells thanked Vargas for his efforts and hopes there will be a quick recovery for local businesses, as long as delays at border crossings do not represent a further downside to the dynamics of the binational region.
“As long as they really open borders and limit delays, our businesses can do the rest,” Wells said.
Mayor Todd Gloria said upon his return from Washington DC, where he addressed the border issue, he had been informed by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) authorities that they were still suffering from security issues. staff due to the pandemic.
“Wait times are still very long, and it could get worse as more people are allowed to cross,” Gloria said, adding that she will continue to ask the federal government to have the necessary personnel for the crossings. entry points. .
US authorities have clarified that the restrictions will be lifted in two stages.
First, in November, DHS will begin allowing fully immunized travelers to enter the country by land for non-essential purposes. Proof of vaccination will be required.
Second, beginning in early January 2022, the federal agency will require all foreign travelers to be fully immunized, whether the reason for their trip is essential or not.
In this way, it seeks to allow enough time for essential travelers, such as truckers, students and health care workers to get vaccinated, DHS authorities said.
For his part, the President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, opened his daily press conference this Wednesday with the recognition of the US government for the decision to reopen the border.
“The opening of the northern border has been completed. We are going to have normality at our northern border. »