SAN ANTONIO — The Biden administration announced that starting on November 8, it is opening land and ferry border crossings with Mexico and Canada to foreign nationals coming to the U.S. for non-essential reasons.
The crossings have been closed since March of 2020. Since then, two administrations have kept the land border crossings shut, saying this helped manage the spread of COVID-19.
Biden’s senior administration officials say the opening of the land and ferry crossings with Mexico and Canada will happen in two phases.
The first phase will allow fully vaccinated foreign travelers from Mexico and Canada to enter the United States for non-essential reasons, like visiting family, seeing friends or tourism.
Unvaccinated travelers will still not be allowed into the U.S. for non-essential reasons.
The second phase will start in January of 2022, when the U.S. will require all travelers crossing the land border for any reason to be vaccinated.
Senior administration officials say a phased implementation of the policy will give people who often travel for work between countries, for example, time to get vaccinated.
Last month, President Joe Biden announced foreign nationals flying into the U.S. will be required to be fully vaccinated starting in November.
This is a huge step for the communities along the Texas-Mexico border that depend on the foot traffic from Mexico. Many bridges connect the U.S. to our neighbors to the south.
In Laredo, one bridge feeds right into downtown, where business owners said they’ve been struggling since their traditional customers have not been allowed into the country.
According to senior administration officials, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will be enforcing the vaccine requirement, spot-checking travelers and asking for paper or digital vaccine proof when they see fit.
Senior administration officials didn’t provide the exact date in November when the land and ferry crossings will open, or what exactly the proof of vaccinations will look like, saying officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were working through some of these issues.
Senior administration officials were adamant the land and ferry crossings will only be open to people who have proper paperwork to enter the U.S.
Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez shared a statement in response to Biden's announcement:
“This is welcome news. I have long said our region’s path to economic recovery from the setback of the pandemic is with the help of our neighbors in Mexico. Past economic data shows that Mexican travelers in our region account for a large percentage of our consumer sales. We need to reclaim that level of economic activity to emerge from the pandemic in a strong economic position.”