The U.S. government will continue to limit “non-essential” travel through its land ports of entry with Mexico and Canada for at least another 30 days.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced on Friday that it was renewing the travel restrictions that it first put into place on March 21 in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Since then, the limits have been extended each month for additional 30-day periods.
Recent declines in the spread of COVID-19 in Arizona and the neighboring Mexican state of Sonora had spurred wishful thinking among some in the Ambos Nogales area that the travel limits would be allowed to expire on Monday. But statements from official channels in Mexico on Thursday, followed by DHS’s confirmation on Friday, put an end to that speculation.
“In order to limit the further spread of coronavirus, the U.S. has reached agreements with both Canada and Mexico to limit all non-essential travel across borders,” the DHS statement said. “Working closely and collaboratively, the Department of Homeland Security is part of a North American approach to stop the spread of the virus.”
U.S. citizens and permanent residents can still return to the country through the ports, and cross-border commercial traffic has not been affected by the restrictions, which primarily apply to people hoping to enter the United States on a tourist visa.
Pedestrian and personal vehicle crossings through Nogales’ ports of entry, which were trending up from 2019 in January and February, have plummeted since March, when the pandemic arrived in the area and the travel restrictions went into effect.
In July, the latest month for which U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics data is available, just 66,000 pedestrians crossed into the United States at local ports of entry, a decline of 78 percent compared to July 2019. Meanwhile, 134,286 passenger vehicles crossed into Arizona through Nogales ports this July, a decline of about 53 percent from July 2019.
Mexico has not imposed any restrictions on U.S. citizens crossing the border into its territory, other than a brief period around the July 4 holiday when officials in Sonora imposed their own temporary ban on non-essential cross-border traffic. 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 slowed southbound traffic at the border and led to backups in downtown Nogales, Ariz.