Despite optimism, nonessential border restrictions extended

Restrictions on nonessential border travel at ports of entry were once again extended for another month on Sunday, though U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar felt there was a notable shift in the White House’ attitude toward the reopening.

The Department of Homeland Security made the announcement via Twitter:

“To reduce the spread of #COVID19, the United States is extending restrictions on non-essential travel at our land and ferry crossings with Canada and Mexico through July 21, while ensuring access for essential trade & travel,” the statement read.

“DHS also notes positive developments in recent weeks and is participating with other U.S. agencies in the White House’s expert working groups with Canada and Mexico to identify the conditions under which restrictions may be eased safely and sustainably,” the department said in a second tweet.

The restrictions were made at the onset of the pandemic and changes were implemented March 20, 2020. U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar has made repeated calls to the Biden Administration to reopen the border, and he expressed some optimism during a press call Wednesday.

“For the first time I heard something from the White House that I thought was important,” Cuellar noted. “They said, ‘we’re engaging with Canada and we’re going to be engaging with Mexico about how to open up the border.’”

Last week, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas visited Mexico. During his two-day trip, Mexico’s president announced the arrival of 1.35 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine that the U.S. sent to 39 border communities, including Reynosa. Officials said once they were applied, there would be no reason to continue restricting travel over the U.S. border.

Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Relations, said, “I shared with Alejandro Mayorkas, .. the objective to accelerate vaccinations along the northern border is to reach normalcy as quickly as possible. The Secretary [Mayorkas] signaled that facilitating trade, tourism and trips is his priority. We agreed.”

Prior to Sunday’s news, the travel restrictions were set to expire Monday. Cuellar believed he would hear favorable news by then, noting, “We’re hoping somewhere between the 21st and July the Fourth we should hear some news.”

Cuellar said he’s invited top officials to visit the border and talk to stakeholders who have observed the adverse effects of low Mexican clientele on the local economies.

“I’ve invited the VP to come down to the border to talk to the mayors, county judges, state reps, folks that understand south Texas. We’re hoping that she’ll make it,” the congressman said.

There’s still no confirmation on whether the invitation was accepted.