Border travel restrictions will remain in place for at least another month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced in a tweet on Sunday afternoon.
“To reduce the spread of COVID-19, the United States is extending restrictions on non-essential travel at our land and ferry crossings with Canada and Mexico through July 21, while ensuring access for essential trade and travel,” DHS wrote in the tweet.
The announcement came amid a growing clamor from border communities and their advocates to end the travel limits, which have put a damper on cross-border economic, cultural and social activity in cities like Nogales.
The latest extension marks the 16th consecutive month of restrictions, which were implemented in March 2020 in response to the pandemic.
The restrictions generally prohibit Mexican citizens with a tourist visa from crossing into the United States, but U.S. citizens and permanent residents are free to enter Mexico and return home through the U.S. ports of entry.
Some local residents were hoping that June would bring an end to the travel restrictions after Mexican authorities announced earlier this month that the country would use 1 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to inoculate residents of Mexico’s northern border states, with the goal of speeding up a full reopening of the border.
Also earlier in June, the Nogales City Council approved a resolution calling for the travel restrictions to be lifted. Last month, a number of Southern Arizona government bodies, including the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, had sent letters to the same effect.
Last Wednesday, witnesses told a Senate Homeland Security subcommittee that border communities couldn’t afford another delay in the reopening.
“While these measures may have served an important role at critical times during the height of the pandemic, the continuation of these provisions are engendering the negative impacts on border economies,” said Nogales-area customs broker Guillermo Valencia, who was testifying on behalf of the Greater Nogales and Santa Cruz County Port Authority.
Valencia testified that border crossings at Nogales are down by more than 46 percent, a drop that has “decimated” small businesses, restaurants, hotels and stores in the city.