SAN YSIDRO, Calif. – Nearly 200 San Ysidro businesses have closed in the past year in large part due to border travel restrictions implemented by the federal government to stem the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Non-essential travel has been limited for more than a year starting March 21, 2020. Restrictions recently were extended once again to June 21, even as pandemic conditions continue to improve.
Juan Miguel Hornedo of the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce says restrictions have had a devastating impact on some area businesses.
“From March of last year to this March — a whole year — the sales that were made in the whole San Ysidro area went up to $250 million,” Hornedo said, “when normally in a good year they would have made close to $900 million.”
According to Hornedo, 80% of businesses solely rely on foot traffic coming across from Mexico.
The chamber along with San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria have advocated for the border to fully reopen with Gloria tweeting Friday he will continue to press federal leaders to lift restrictions on border crossings to help businesses in the border area.
Alfredo Saldeno, general manager of Tepito Club, says they have had to close down a car dealership and a furniture store due to the lack of business. He hopes border travel restrictions are lifted soon.
“We thought in March they would open and then April, May, June,” Saldeno said. “It’s very hard and we still need to pay all the utilities. I don’t like my employees to have less hours of work but sometimes you need to do it.”
The restrictions don’t prevent U.S citizens from returning home. But traveling for sightseeing, recreation, gambling or cultural events don’t fall within the definition of essential travel.
Sunim Gakhreja, owner Maya’s Gourmet Pizza on San Ysidro Boulevard, says allowing Americans to come back and forth isn’t fair to businesses who heavily rely on Mexican nationals for their business.
“That’s the height of hypocrisy,” Gakhreja said. “How can Americans go to the other side and it’s alright and come back but a Mexican guy, he cannot come over here even if he is fully vaccinated?”