Border town fed up with extended ban on non-essential travel | Cronkite News
WASHINGTON – Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino said he was ‘fed up’ with the federal government’s COVID-19 ban on non-essential border crossings, which has been extended for a month, further crippling businesses that depend on cross-border customers.
The ban, which was set to expire on Saturday, has been extended until at least September 21, which will mark just under 18 months of travel restrictions at land entry points at the Canadian and Mexican borders.
“You know, this has to stop,” said Andy Carey, executive director of the US Mexico Border Philanthropy Project. “It’s been going on for almost a year and a half.”
But Carey said no one believed the border would open by next month. Meanwhile, businesses around Nogales are shutting down, losing customers and suffering economically.
“The shops are completely empty,” Garino said. “They took their merchandise, they left.
The ban on non-essential border crossings between the three countries was first put in place on March 24, 2020, in response to the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was extended a month later, when customs and border protection cited the 720,000 confirmed cases in the United States at the time.
The ban has been extended monthly since then, with the latest extension noting the 36.1 million cases of COVID-19 in the United States and the presence of the highly contagious delta variant as reasons to maintain the restrictions.
In a Federal Register notice announcing the latest extension on Monday, CBP said U.S. and Mexican officials “have mutually determined that non-essential travel between the United States and Mexico poses an additional risk of transmission and spread of the virus. associated with COVID-19 “.
The move comes as the number of cases in Arizona and the United States, driven by the delta variant, is steadily increasing after months of relatively low infection rates from spring to early summer. Where Arizona was recording an average of 480 new cases per day at the end of March, the number had risen to an average of 2,979 cases over the past week.
The border restriction does not apply to essential travel, which includes cross-border sea transport, or travel for school, medical care or work.
Because many of those crossing the border at Yuma come to work, the restrictions haven’t had such a severe effect there, said Kimberly Kahl, executive director of the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce. People can come and go. But there was still an impact, she said.
“People are still coming across, that’s okay,” Kahl said. “But they can’t stay… that late.” Many businesses close earlier.
Kahl said the port of entry was closing earlier than before, which “definitely affects” Yuma’s businesses.
But in Nogales, where many more border crossings fall into the non-essential category, traffic has dropped sharply. According to data from the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, the total number of northbound crosswalks in Nogales has increased from 3.4 million in 2019 to 1.4 million in 2020.
For Nogales businesses, these were often Mexican customers crossing the border to purchase food, clothing and other necessities in the United States, where prices are often cheaper, said Carey. . Now all that money stays in Mexico.
“There is really no incentive for the Mexican government to encourage the Biden administration to open the border because the Mexican economy on the Mexican side is doing so much better, because all that money that would be spent in our country is being spent on the Mexico, ”Carey mentioned.
Garino said he had given up writing to lawmakers in Washington, who he said had not responded. “They know… how we feel. It’s a waste of time for me to write letters to them, ”he said.
But, he said, something must be done.
“Here with us, the good people of Nogales, Sonora and the State of Sonora want to come and shop legally with their visas and their permits to shop locally,” he said, “and they are not authorized, as they are considered non-essential ‘,