The San Ysidro port of entry is reopening to tourism and family visits for vaccinated travelers today after nearly 20 months of restrictions due to the pandemic – and just before the peak holiday shopping season.

Border communities on both sides breathed a sigh of relief – while preparing for what could be heavy traffic, long waits and crowds in land ports.

“For too long, restrictions on our border have separated families and devastated businesses that depend on cross-border trade,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.

COVID-19 restrictions put in place in March 2020 have had a huge economic and social impact, especially on communities divided by the border. In Mexico, the effects have been devastating on families who depend on the informal work often done on short trips to the United States.

The restrictions mainly prevented Mexican citizens with visas or border crossing cards from entering the United States. This is because US citizens and lawful permanent residents cannot be prevented from returning home to the United States after entering Mexico, regardless of their reason. Mexico has never closed its northern borders to inbound visitors.

Businesses along the southern border have been severely affected by travel restrictions, with 276 businesses in San Ysidro reportedly shutting down permanently, according to Jason Wells, executive director of the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce. He estimates that businesses in the city have lost $ 1.3 billion in sales due to COVID-19-related restrictions on non-essential travel and 2,200 jobs.

Wells and other public officials from border communities have advocated for restrictions to be lifted sooner, saying they were left in place because border communities lack representation in DC Retail tourism was the second biggest contributor to the economy of San Diego before the pandemic.

U.S. officials have urged travelers to have their travel and vaccination documents on hand so that border officials can inspect them in anticipation of longer-than-usual wait times at ports of entry today and throughout. of the week.

The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is asking people traveling for non-essential reasons to avoid crossing during rush hour. Rush hours are Monday through Friday from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. and Sunday from 2 p.m. to midnight, according to a CBP spokesperson.

The new rules only apply to legal entry. Those who enter illegally will continue to be subject to deportation under a public health measure that allows migrants to be quickly removed before they can seek asylum.

Travelers entering the United States by vehicle, train, and ferry will be asked about their vaccination status as part of standard U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection. At the discretion of officers, travelers will have their proof of vaccination verified during a secondary screening process. Unvaccinated children under the age of 18 will be allowed into the United States if they are traveling with a fully vaccinated adult, border officials said on Tuesday.

Flying in the United States requires proof of a negative COVID-19 test. No testing will be required to enter by land or sea, provided travelers meet vaccination requirements.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States will accept travelers who have been fully vaccinated with any of the vaccines approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, not just those used in states. -United.

Some Mexican nationals, especially teachers, have been vaccinated with drugs that do not have WHO clearance, such as Sputnik V – developed in Russia – or China’s CanSino vaccine. These vaccines are not currently listed in the COVID-19 vaccines approved by the CDC for cross-border travel verification.

More information is available on the Department of Homeland Security’s fact sheet.

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