‘Much better than I thought’: Travelers on border traffic as restrictions lifted

Border Report

SAN YSIDRO, Calif. — Many people haven’t crossed the border since the restrictions went in place 20 months ago, but for some of them that changed Monday, as they were able to cross for the first time since the pandemic started in March of 2020.

Local Tijuana residents say they are pleasantly surprised by Homeland Security’s state of readiness.

“Much better than I thought, I cross in like ten minutes,” traveler Mario Morales said. “The U.S. government, they are doing things so well. There’s a lot of officers.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers have been warning of a crush of tourists crossing and possibly snaring traffic for hours, but that has not been the case.

“Me and my friends were talking last night, like hey, let’s get ready, tomorrow is going to be crazy,” another traveler said.

When crossing the border via land or ferry, any foreign national older than 18 is required to carry proof of vaccination while those who are not U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents must be fully vaccinated in order to cross starting in January 2022.

Even with the added step of showing each person’s proof of vaccination, the line was moving quickly, according to travelers.

The border reopening was welcome for many businesses in the area’s border communities. For Olivia Campos, owner of Carolin Shoes, she worried every day about the impact of the 19-month closure, but she’d also grown used to it after multiple extensions.

“It’s like if they don’t open by November, they don’t want to open until next year,” Capos said, “but luckily they opened.”

Campos said with most of her shoppers coming from Mexico, she was hoping for a bigger turnout Monday but business was only 15%. But Campos said she saw an uptick of travelers compared to a typical Sunday, especially at the outlet mall.

“I went to shop at Las Americas, and I see a lot of licenses plates from TJ,” Campos said.

She calls it a good sign that business is looking up for the area, especially with the holiday season right around the corner.

“Everything going to be nice and easy,” she said. “They already go to Las Americas, Los Angeles, any other places. They will come to us, too.”

However, Tijuana residents say the idea of having access parity with the U.S. is giving everyone a real moral boost.

“I feel like a lot of people are really about it,” one traveler said. “A lot of people were waiting for it so I’ve noticed a lot of people in T.J. (Tijuana) who are really excited.”

For businesses in San Ysidro, they are hopeful for a comeback as 90 to 95% of their customers are Mexican citizens.

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