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U.S. Downgrades Advisory Against Travel To Mexico, But Border Restrictions Remain For Now

Verónica G. Cárdenas for Texas Public Radio

The U.S. Department of State has downgraded its travel advisory against travel to Mexico due to COVID-19. Instead of urging Americans to “not travel” to Mexico, the highest advisory against travel, it is now advising them to “reconsider travel” to the country due to coronavirus risks.

Certain states in Mexico remain under the “do not travel” advisories, including South Texas’ neighbor Tamaulipas, due to crime and kidnapping.

Texas Congressman Henry Cuellar applauded the State Department’s overall decision as an “important first step to helping our community resume economic activity during this pandemic.”

The Laredo Democrat has urged the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to lift restrictions against nonessential travel at the Texas-Mexico border.

“However, the continuation of the non-essential travel restrictions should be reevaluated,” Cuellar said in a statement. “I hope DHS looks at the State Department’s travel advisory when planning their next move.”

While flights between the two countries have continued, travel through inland ports and seaports has been limited to activities deemed essential since March. That includes travel for trade, schools, health professionals, military personnel, and diplomats.

The lack of tourists and shoppers from Mexico has been costly for border businesses and communities. Ahead of the holiday shopping season, Cuellar and Laredo business leaders renewed their calls last week for the federal government to ease restrictions through screenings and testing at ports of entry.

On Thursday, Mexico’s Secretariat of Foreign Affairs announced an extension of the nonessential border travel restrictions through Oct. 21.

But local officials along the Texas-Mexico appear ready to also renew their calls against the restrictions.

Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz told reporters on Wednesday that he would ask the city council and Laredo health officials to discuss reopening the city’s bridges to nonessential traffic at a meeting next Monday. He said he would also talk to Mexican officials in Nuevo Laredo about the possibility of reopening the border.

“I suspect that I think we are ready since we are reopening our downtown area,” he said. “I think we’re ready.”

Saenz also told the Laredo Morning Times that he would ask other officials and business leaders in the Texas Border Coalition about petitioning the federal government to reopen border ports of entry.

The Laredo City Council, which was the first to require face masks in the country, also voted earlier this week to ease its local restrictions by allowing restaurants and bars now serving food to expand their outdoor patios. They also removed a city-wide curfew on nonessential activities.

But Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Laredo, the lower Rio Grande Valley and Victoria could not enter the next reopening phase because their COVID-19 hospitalization rates are still over 15%.

Laredo has the highest percentage out of the 22 hospital regions across the state at about 26%.

Maria Mendez can be reached at Maria@tpr.org and on Twitter at @anxious_maria. She's a corps member of Report For America.

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María Méndez can be reached at maría@tpr.org or on Twitter at @anxious_maria