Battle over vaccine mandate as U.S.-Mexico border set to fully reopen

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released guidelines for their plan to fully re-open the border saying all travelers who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and can provide proof of that vaccination can enter via “land and ferry ports of entry,” no matter the reason.

DHS said they will make the move in November but did not give an exact date.

Although essential travelers such as truck drivers and students were never required to have vaccines to cross into the United States they will now need to show proof of vaccination in January 2022, this according to a release by DHS.

The borders to the United States have been closed to all non-essential travel for 19 months due to Covid-19 so many in the area say they are looking forward to the restrictions being lifted.

Jon Barela, The CEO of the Borderplex alliance said,

“Our region’s business community applauds this overdue first step in the right direction. The U.S.-Mexico border is a critical economic driver for the United States, with more than $671.1 billion in trade between the United States and Mexico every year. Moreover, Mexican nationals comprise 15% to 30% of retail customers in the Borderplex region. This decision will help boost our regional and national economies and help return our inextricably linked community to some degree of normalcy.” 

Congresswoman Veronica Escobar said that the decision to reopen the borders for all travelers is long overdue,

“I’ve been advocating for months that we do this and is part of why it’s important to me that we have the vaccines necessary and to get everyone vaccinated and we provide the resources to local government so they can be successful in executing that mission set,” she said, “This will have a positive impact on our local economy. I am fully confident that as soon as we see more people downtown, people who are from Ciudad Juarez ready to spend their money in our community I think we are going to begin to see businesses reopening.”

The woman running against Rep. Escobar, Irene Armendariz agrees that the borders need to be re-open saying she’s seen first hand how both people and businesses have suffered because of the shutdown.

“I have family in Ciudad Juarez but they are not Legal residents and so they are not able to come. And I know the downtown has unfortunately been hurt since the 80’s and 90’s when NAFTA came about and now even more because most of these shoppers downtown are from Ciudad Juarez.”

However, Armendariz said that she disagrees with mandating that those that cross have the vaccine saying,

“”First of all, it’s not a fully reopen because they have specifically said that un-vaccinated people are unable to cross. We’re telling Mexicans that we don’t want them in the United States,” she said, “Illegal immigrants can come unvaccinated but the people who have gone through the medical examinations to get the Visas and also have paid their dues, and waited in line have not been welcome in over a year. If we are going to reopen, we need to reopen completely.”

Some businesses on El Paso street told KTSM that they are looking forward to the border re-opening for all travelers saying they will welcome the increase in business.

Including Samuel Lara, the Manager of a Cellular Store downtown, who said their sales went down 80% when the restrictions started back in March of 2020.

“”I think the reopen is going to be perfect because its on season, like November is perfect. I wish it would of been this month but November is great because we get all the shopping in November and December, those [months] are really strong”

Other businesses, such as those located at the Sunland Park Mall say they’re looking forward to a boost in business heading into the holiday shopping season.

Kelly Baker, the General Manager for the Sunland Park Mall said they are happy to welcome shoppers back to the mall,

“We are so excited at Sunland Park Mall for this to come through. We have been waiting for this for over 19 months now and we are so happy to have our Mexican nationals rejoining us at Sunland Park Mall, especially in time for Holiday shopping.”

Baker added that even though business slowed down over the last 19 months, they’re ready offer customers even more than before.

“I think all businesses saw a dip in business, but what was really exciting here at Sunland Park Mall is we’re doing a lot of things to rejuvenate the mall and create some exciting events for the community. Twenty five stores have opened in 2021.”

KTSM contacted the Department of Homeland Security to see which types of vaccines will be accepted and how they will enforce the mandates for travelers at the border but they have yet to respond.

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