The Department of Homeland Security said on Friday that U.S. restrictions against “non-essential” travel through the country’s land ports of entry with Mexico and Canada will continue for another month.
The extension is effective through March 21 – the date that will mark a full year since the month-to-month restrictions were first implemented. It’s also the first time that the cross-border travel limits have been extended under the administration of new U.S. President Joe Biden.
“To protect our citizens and prevent the further spread of COVID-19, the United States, Canada and Mexico are extending the restrictions on non-essential travel at our land borders through March 21,” DHS said in a Twitter post Friday afternoon, adding: “We are also working to ensure essential trade and travel remain open.”
That announcement came on the heels of a tweet from Mexico’s Foreign Relations Secretariat, saying that considering the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico, it had suggested another 30-day extension to the United States.
The dual announcements followed a pattern established during the Trump administration in which Mexico, which has not imposed any cross-border travel restrictions of its own, is first to announce the extended U.S. limits by saying it had proposed the idea to the United States.
On the U.S.-Mexico border, the restrictions primarily apply to people crossing into the United States from Mexico on a tourist visa.
Those limits have had a major impact on the Nogales area, disrupting not only familial and cultural ties to Mexico, but also preventing the crossing of large numbers of Sonoran shoppers who contribute to the local economy.
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation statistics shows that in April 2020, the first full month after the local arrival of the coronavirus pandemic and the implementation of the restrictions, pedestrian border-crossings in Nogales fell by 81 percent compared to April 2019 and the number of car passengers entering the United States through local ports declined by 76 percent.
Since then, the travel restrictions and fears about COVID-19 have continued to drive down foot and vehicle traffic through the local ports of entry. In December 2020, the most recent month for which data was available, the number of pedestrian crossings in Nogales was down 72 percent and vehicle passengers were down 55 percent from December 2019.