SAN YSIDRO, Calif. – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is expected to announce Wednesday whether travel restrictions will be lifted along the country’s borders with Canada and Mexico.
As of now, the U.S. limits inbound land border crossings from its neighboring nations to “essential travel,” including people traveling for work, medical purposes and to attend educational institutions. The restrictions went into place last year to limit the spread of COVID-19 amid the outbreak of the global pandemic.
U.S. officials have extended the travel restrictions several times since the early months of the pandemic, but local leaders, including San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, have called on the federal government to reconsider.
In a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas, Gloria asked that restrictions be lifted because San Diegans increasingly are being vaccinated against the virus and due to the roughly $50 million hit the restrictions have had on the regional economy since March 2020.
“That is having an extremely negative impact on San Diego’s economy,” Gloria said.
That sentiment is shared in San Ysidro as well, particularly as some 95% of the clientele for businesses on San Ysidro Boulevard comes from Mexico, according to the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce. The chamber says some 200 businesses have closed up shop since the restrictions were put into place.
Still, not everyone is in favor of removing them just yet.
Tijuana resident Gabriela Castro crossed into San Ysidro on Tuesday to visit her bank and planned to return right to Mexico. She argues restrictions should stay as they are for now.
“We have a lot problems with the COVID-19,” Castro said, “and I think it’s more safe for all of the people is staying home.”
A couple visiting from Ohio said they wanted to visit Mexico and were unclear on the rules.
“We looked at it before we came over and it looked like they were technically limiting to essential travel and Americans returning home was essential travel so we felt pretty comfortable that would be OK,” Karl Wohlwend said.
For them and others, crossing southbound into Mexico was easy. They had their temperatures taken and went on their way.
“Oh my gosh, the food there was great,” Mollie Flora said. “The people were amazing just walking and seeing everything was amazing. It was great.”