Port

The northbound vehicle lanes into the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry were relatively quiet early on the afternoon of Sunday, March 22, a day after restrictions on non-essential cross-border traffic went into effect.

The Trump administration's ban on non-essential travel through U.S. ports of entry with Mexico, meant to help limit the spread of COVID-19, has been extended through June 22.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf announced the extension on Tuesday, saying in a statement: “Our efforts over the last several months to limit non-essential travel have been successful and now is not the time to change course.”

Travel restrictions at the U.S. border with Mexico – as well as at the country’s northern border with Canada – went into effect on March 21, initially for a period of 30 days. On April 20, Wolf announced that the limitations at both borders would be extended until May 20.

With that deadline looming, he announced another extension on Tuesday, saying that “Non-essential travel will not be permitted until this administration is convinced that doing so is safe and secure.”

“We have been in contact with our Canadian and Mexican counterparts and they also agree that extending these restrictions is prudent at this time,” he said.

Mexico has not imposed any restrictions on U.S. citizens crossing the border into its territory, which led to protests in March. Instead, authorities have implemented screening measures on the south side of the ports of entry in Nogales, Sonora, such as temperature checks and disinfectant tunnels, that have been applied to all cross-border travelers, regardless of their nationality.

The application of the U.S. restrictions in Nogales has meant little change in the movement of cross-border commercial traffic, such as semi-trucks hauling loads of Mexican produce into the United States.

In terms of non-commercial traffic, the restrictions have primarily affected Mexican nationals holding tourist visas, who had typically crossed the border for social and shopping trips. U.S. citizens and permanent residents have largely been able to cross back and forth without issue.

And while traffic through the local ports declined significantly in the days immediately following the implementation of the restrictions, longer vehicles lines soon began to reappear, especially around special days like Easter and Mother’s Day. Some U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers also expressed frustration that people were continuing to cross back and forth through the ports for seemingly non-essential reasons, such as for haircuts.

Last month, CBP began closing more vehicle lanes at the ports. And while it wasn’t clear if the move was specifically meant to discourage travelers, it resulted in wait times of up to three hours at some points.

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