SAN DIEGO — The U.S.-Mexico border reopened Monday for nonessential travel almost 20 months after restrictions were handed down to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria joined state, local and Mexico leaders at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, one of the busiest land border crossings in the world, to celebrate the resumption of travel for fully vaccinated people.
“As much as today is about finally being able to bolster our local economy and the businesses who rely on cross-border commerce, it is also about people – families who can now be reunited after being restricted from crossing the border for nearly 20 months,” Gloria said.
As of Monday, any foreign national older than 18 is required to carry proof of vaccination when crossing the border via land or ferry. Starting in January 2022, all individuals who are not U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents must be fully vaccinated in order to cross.
Business owners who saw sales dip with pandemic restrictions in place were preparing late Sunday for what they hoped would be a large influx of customers come Monday.
“I’m very excited,” said Olivia Campos, owner of Carolin Shoes. “More sales for sure and more income, more employees — everything better for us. We don’t want to have so many hard times paying rent and all the expenses we have.”
Shop owner Sunil Gakhreja said he used to see up to 200 customers at his business on a good day. That number dropped to 30-40 per day under the previous restrictions.
“For the last 19 months, we’ve been closing and reopening,” Gakhreja said. “Recently it’s been on the slow side.”
Border officials warned as the volume of travelers increases, so will wait times. U.S. Customs and Border Protection recommends nonessential travelers avoid crossing at peak times, including 4-9 a.m. Monday-Friday and 2 p.m. to 12 a.m. Saturday-Sunday. You can check border wait times on the CBP website.
Travelers are urged to have their identification and proof of vaccination ready, use appropriate lanes and complete I-94 forms online prior to crossing if needed. The San Ysidro and Otay Mesa Ports of Entry will remain open 24/7 and the Tecate Port of Entry will be open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.