EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Eight members of Congress who represent border districts on Friday urged President Biden to roll back travel restrictions to Mexico, taking into account COVID-19 vaccination rates.
“We urge the administration to work with border communities, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services on identifying the vaccination rate in American communities that would result in the easing of travel restrictions at our land ports and the reopening of the ports to our neighbors on the other side,” the lawmakers said in a Friday letter to Biden.
Non-essential restrictions have been in place at land ports since March 2020, crushing lots of businesses in American border cities from San Ysidro, California, to Brownsville, Texas, that rely heavily on Mexican shoppers.
The safe reopening of land borders is one of the few issues drawing bipartisan support nowadays. U.S. Reps. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, and Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, signed the letter.
“Our communities represent key arteries for our national economy through the land ports of entry connecting us with our Mexican sister cities. These ports process hundreds of billions of dollars in trade and commerce,” the lawmakers wrote. “As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention update their guidance to support increased activities, we now believe it is appropriate for the stringent (border) restrictions to be reassessed to determine if the closures should be lifted.”
The members of Congress suggest the federal government set a standard for vaccination rates on American border cities that would trigger a rollback of cross-border restrictions. They also urged that the administration consider “surging” some COVID-19 vaccines to Mexican border communities. More than 68 percent of El Paso residents 12 and older have received at least one shot, and 54.1 percent are fully vaccinated. And 81.4 percent of county residents 65 and older — one of the most vulnerable populations to the coronavirus — are now fully vaccinated here.
Tijuana and Juarez in April experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases and fatalities, but have since seen a big drop in both. Juarez on Friday completed a massive vaccination campaign targeting thousands of teachers and residents between the ages of 50 and 59.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection earlier this month extended non-essential land border travel restrictions through June 21.