LAREDO, Texas — The Biden administration had big news for border communities this week when it announced U.S. land and ferry crossings between Mexico and Canada would reopen next month.
The closures went into effect in March of 2020, when, under the Trump administration, the Department of Homeland Security said the measure would help curb the spread of COVID-19.
The closures, however, had a negative impact on border businesses in south Texas. Congressman Henry Cuellar said the loss in revenue tops $19 billion dollars for businesses along the southwest border.
The new regulations allowing fully vaccinated travels from Canada or Mexico to enter U.S. ports of entry will begin in November, applying to non-essential travelers visiting the U.S. to see family or for tourism.
The second phase of the new regulations will begin in January, when, according to DHS officials, all inbound foreign national travelers entering the U.S. for any reason must show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.
DHS officials said the January start time will allow essential travelers like truckers, students and health care workers time to get a vaccine.
“To all of the trade industry,” said Cuellar, “you got two months to get your drivers vaccinated. So, I ask you to get ahead of the game.”
Cuellar said the push from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle could be a reason for the change in policy.
“There was so much contradiction,” he said. “Why is it that Mexicans could fly in? But if you drove, you couldn't do that. Why is it that the undocumented aliens were coming in and that was OK?”
Overall, the news brings a sigh of relief to border communities who thrive on the foot traffic from Mexican shoppers.
“Before the pandemic, we were getting 18 million Mexicans that would come in and spend $19 billion dollars,” said Cuellar.
Cuellar said many businesses in border communities couldn’t survive and had to shut their doors for good.
“You got a pandemic and then you had their customers taken away. So, it was a double whammy,” the legislator added. “Not only did they close, but the ones that were surviving, they got rid of all of their employees. So people lost their jobs and it was only the husband and wives just barely trying to make enough money to keep the lights on."
DHS did not provide a specific date the new regulations will go into effect next month.