Empty passenger vehicle lanes at the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales are seen here on March 31, shortly after travel restrictions first went into effect.

With COVID-19 infections and deaths rising steadily on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, the U.S. government will continue to restrict “non-essential” travel through its Southwest ports of entry – including the ones in Nogales – for at least another month.

The extended restrictions also apply to the U.S. border wth Canada.

“Based on the success of the existing restrictions and close collaboration with Mexico and Canada, (the Department of Homeland Security) will continue to limit non-essential travel at our land ports of entry with Canada and Mexico until Aug. 20,” Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf tweeted on Thursday.

The travel restrictions first took effect for a 30-day period on March 21. They’ve been renewed for another 30 days each month since then.

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.

The Mexican government has not adopted similar restrictions on travelers from the United States, though the State of Sonora, in collaboration with federal partners, briefly set up checkpoints earlier this month to turn back people crossing for non-essential purposes.

Juan Francisco Gim, director of Mexican Customs in Nogales, Sonora, told the NI last week that the checkpoints, which were in place July 4-7, were on hold “until further notice.”

U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics data show that pedestrian and passenger vehicle border-crossings into Nogales from Mexico dropped sharply after the U.S. restrictions were implemented, though they bounced back somewhat in May, the last month for which statistics were available.

In February, 249,000 pedestrians and 286,000 passenger vehicles crossed into the United States at Nogales ports. Those numbers decreased to 155,000 pedestrians and 220,000 vehicles in March; then dropped in April to 54,000 pedestrians and 91,000 vehicles.

In May, the numbers rose to 71,400 pedestrians and 112,500 vehicles.

Still, that was down significantly from May 2019, when 277,000 pedestrians and 275,000 northbound passenger vehicles passed through local ports.

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