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New screening measures at the border cause exceedingly long wait times

Posted at 5:23 PM, Aug 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-24 22:20:58-04

SAN YSIDRO, Calif. (KGTV) - New restrictions in place at the border designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 are also drastically slowing traffic.

Some commuters reported waiting seven, eight, nine hours trying to cross into San Ysidro from Mexico over the weekend.

A woman in her late 80's died Sunday while waiting in a car with family to cross into San Ysidro, according to reporting partner Televisa.

Emilio Tamez owns three restaurants in the South Bay, including one in San Ysidro. Many of his employees live in Tijuana.

"They're just hurting more businesses, and they're hurting the people who are holding the economy right now," said Tamez.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency started implementing the new measures Friday. They're designed to discourage people from traveling to Mexico for non-essential travel.

"You've got this, history of many decades of people going across for work purposes or for business purposes things that have nothing to do with leisure or tourism, these are people whose livelihood depends on the border, so you're affecting that large group of people," said Gustavo De La Fuente, executive director of the Smart Border Coalition.

De La Fuente said he understands the move to an extent.

"In some cases, people should stay home, if you want to go into Ensenada or Rosarito for tourism purposes, right now is not the best time to do it," said De La Fuente.

A spokesman with CBP sent 10News a statement, that reads in part:

"According to the U.S Customs and Border Protection, a recent survey of more than 100,000 travelers on the southwest border found that the vast majority of cross-border travel by U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents is for purposes that are not deemed essential. To respond to the ongoing public health crisis and protect local southwest border communities, CBP is taking measures to discourage non-essential travel to and from Mexico to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the United States. "

Tamez said it's the people working the hardest who will suffer the most.

"I find it to be very cruel, these people already, before would have to get up 3 hours early just to get to a job here," said Tamez.

Similar measures are in place in Tucson, El Paso, and Laredo Texas. The restrictions are expected to last until at least September 21st.