Texas border leaders to Trump: Lift port-of-entry restrictions that ‘paralyzed’ economies

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HARLINGEN, Texas (Border Report) — Southwest border leaders from Texas are calling upon the Trump administration to lift travel restrictions on U.S. land ports of entry, saying communities have lost too much revenue and cross-border trade has been sorely impacted for too long.

On Wednesday, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr., who is chairman of the Texas Border Coalition, said that at a time when the rest of Texas and the nation begin to open up, so too should international border crossings. Treviño said he sent Homeland Security Acting Commissioner Chad Wolf a letter urging the reopening of these international bridges to non-essential border travel.

“As the state of Texas opens up its economy, those of us on the border will remain severely impacted by not allowing individuals to cross for economic trade. Sales tax is being impacted, tourism and everything else,” Treviño said. “We’re asking that DHS please not extend it.”

Restrictions at land ports on the U.S./Mexico and Canadian borders have been in place since March 20 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Only those deemed “essential” workers may cross. On May 19, Wolf announced that these restrictions would be extended indefinitely, and that has worried border leaders who say those who want to cross to visit family and shops are not allowed.

In the letter to Wolf, Treviño wrote there appears to be a double standard and the border regions are losing out.

“As the United States and state governments work toward easing stay-at-home restrictions, foreign travel suspensions limiting entry to the U.S. have not seen a similar easing,” he wrote on behalf of the coalition, which is comprised of border mayors and county judges representing 2.5 million people along the Texas-Mexico border from El Paso to Brownsville, Texas. “The pandemic has put a halt to this critical exchange of business and has left border cities economically paralyzed.”

The pandemic has put a halt to this critical exchange of business and has left border cities economically paralyzed.”

Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr.

Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz on Wednesday said leaders on both sides of the border tell him they want bridge restrictions across the Southwest lifted by June 21.

Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz. (Border Report File Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

“The border area as we know it is very unique. We’re an organism — a region that is interdependent and we rely heavily on each other. We want the land ports reopened fully,” Saenz said during a video briefing with media.

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, who is chairman of the McAllen-Hidalgo International Toll Bridge Board of Trustees, told Border Report that pedestrian traffic on international bridges is down about 90%. And he also is in favor of restrictions lifted.

But Darling also sits on a White House advisory board that has weekly conference calls, and he said he has heard that Canadian officials want to extend their border restrictions at least through July 22 to stop the spread of coronavirus.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials have been screening everyone who crosses at land ports for symptoms of COVID-19.

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling speaks with Border Report in August about the high rate of one-way migrant fliers from McAllen International Airport. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

Darling added that even if bridge restrictions are lifted, currently Mexico has put in place its own set of restrictions within its country that limit elderly and pregnant women from being out and allows no more than two people per vehicle. So even if the bridges are completely reopened, he doubts that the same amount of shoppers or visitors would come across. That coupled with what he is hearing Canadian officials want, has him dubious that his city’s economy will be in a position to rebound any time in the near future.

“I’m not optimistic this will change,” Darling said.

Visit the BorderReport.com homepage for the latest exclusive stories and breaking news about issues along the United States-Mexico border.

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