US-Mexico Border Reopens After 20 Months of COVID Closure

There were fewer crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border than expected on Monday, as it reopened to non-essential travel after a 20-month shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many residents stayed home to avoid a possible chaos.

Officials in the Mexican border city of Tijuana said people did not take full advantage of restrictions that were lifted along the 2,000-mile (3,200 km) border due to fear of being caught in traffic.

“In the morning, there was no line,” said Tijuana resident Claudia Hernández as she prepared to enter the United States to go shopping before Thanksgiving holidays.

“Next week we will see the huge lines that always form.”

Javier Delgado, a Tijuana transportation official, said there was about 35% less traffic than expected at the city’s border with San Diego, one of the busiest borders in the world.

People on a trip to Shebet Haaretz enjoy a group hug in Corral de Piedra, Mexico (credit: DANIEL ALMAZAN)

On Sunday, hundreds of cars lined up as far back as miles from Tijuana, sparking fears that the reopening could become a problem. But the traffic moved steadily.

In the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez, across from El Paso, Texas, about 20 people lined up early Monday before crossing and hugging the family on the other side of the border.

“We thought they were going to tell us again that they had decided not to open it,” Lorena Hernández said, stroking her adult daughter’s hair and smiling broadly after they met in El Paso for the first time since March 2020. “I said: ‘If they don’t open again, I’ll take a plane.’

The Mexican Foreign Ministry said late Monday that the first day of the reopening of the border was carried out “without incident.”

“Border flow is expected to increase over the weekend and progressively as the holidays approach and beginning with Black Friday,” the ministry said.

Still, different rules on coronavirus vaccines threaten to delay some family reunions, while the prospect of some restrictions being eased has also encouraged migrants to try their luck seeking asylum in the United States, raising a challenge. new test for the Biden administration.

Some inoculated Mexicans will be barred from entering the United States immediately if they received vaccines in Mexico that have not been approved by the World Health Organization, such as CanSino from China and Sputnik V. from Russia.

“I never imagined that because they gave me the CanSino vaccine I would not be able to cross,” lamented Donato Suárez, a driver from a private university in Tijuana who was hoping to visit relatives in the United States that he has not seen for almost two years. years.

“We even had plans to do something when the border reopened,” he added, noting that around 300 people where he works are in the same situation. “We will have to wait”.

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