EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Travel restrictions at the U.S.-Mexico border will be extended an additional month, officials from both countries confirmed this morning.
The restrictions in place since March 21 apply to non-essential land traffic from Mexico to the U.S. and from the U.S. to Mexico. The point is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from one country to another. The current restrictions were set to expire on June 22.
“The Department of Homeland Security will ensure that the measures taken at our borders will protect America from all threats, including threats against the health and safety of our citizens,” said Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf. “Based on the success of the existing restrictions and the emergence of additional global COVID-19 hotspots, the Department will continue to limit non-essential travel at our land ports of entry with Canada and Mexico.”
He said the extension “protects Americans while keeping essential trade and travel flowing as we reopen the American economy” and added that DHS has kept close contact with Canada and Mexico and that officials in those countries agree on the continuation of the restrictions.
“I look forward to continue working with our neighbors to maintain essential trade and travel while protecting the health of our respective citizenry,” Wolf said in a statement.
In a series of tweets Tuesday morning, Mexico’s Foreign Ministry and the Mexican Embassy in the United States said the decision comes after both countries reviewed the COVID-19 situation and found a need to maintain a high level of caution.
“Both countries continue trying to coordinate sanitary measures in the border region. The (travel restrictions) will remain current until July 21, 2020,” the Foreign Ministry said.
In practical terms, the restrictions mean that U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents who go to Mexico on business or some sort of emergency can cross the border back into the United States, but foreign visa holders mostly cannot. Commercial traffic continues to flow between the two countries, but merchants in border cities who depend on tourism are hurting.
U.S. residents are only supposed to go to Mexico for essential or emergency reasons. Mexican officials at various ports of entry have set up medical checkpoints where a traveler’s temperature is taken and he’s asked if suffering from flu-like symptoms or coughing.