SAN DIEGO (AP) — Communities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border are preparing for heavy traffic and long waits on Monday.
That's when the U.S. will reopen its land borders to nonessential travel after almost 20 months of COVID-19 restrictions.
Travel across land borders from Canada and Mexico has largely been restricted workers whose jobs are deemed essential.
New rules will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the U.S. regardless of the reason.
Border authorities are urging travelers to have their travel and vaccine documents readily available for inspection in anticipation of longer-than-usual wait times at ports of entry.
According to Supervisor Nora Vargas, the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa ports of entry, are some of the most visited border crossings. Pre-closure, the port saw nearly 98,000 commuters each day. Supervisor Vargas says every year, the San Ysidro port of entry saw close to 40 million commuters each year.
Monday, Supervisor Vargas is hoping to see that foot traffic once again.
“We are excited especially because the holidays are coming up," explains Vargas. "So be able to ensure that folks are able to come and that more importantly hat they are able to take time to be here and they are going to be healthy and safe since they have to be vaccinated.”
Monday, those looking to cross the border will need to have their passport, Visa, or ID. Individuals will also need to verbally tell officers their reason for crossing as well as their vaccination status. Then officers may then ask for either a vaccination card or an electronic proof of vaccination.
Supervisor Vargas says so far, in areas near the border, 91.97% of people are fully vaccinated. In Baja California, Vargas shares they were able to vaccinate over 26,000 people.
“Mexico has done it’s part they have been ensuring that their community and their region are vaccinated, and because of that they were able to lift the restrictions," she explains.
The biggest impact is to businesses in or near our border communities, who rely on the foot traffic. So far Supervisor Vargas shares that San Ysidro has lost 72% of their revenue, and close to 1,900 jobs.
“Particularly the communities of San Ysidro have lost a lot of revenue, over 200 businesses have closed because so many Mexican nationals were not able to cross the border.”
San Ysidro's Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Jason Wells, said in an interview last week with 10News, that he is hopeful that recovery will come quickly, “About 65% of our businesses will be making their entire net sales between November 20th and January 6th, so the fact that we are reopening the border on November 8th, it could not have come at a better time.”
Both Wells and Vargas share that wait times are expected to be longer. CBP officials say that the official reopening will go into effect at 6am on Monday.