US-Mexico Border crossings empty under coronavirus restrictions
The busy border crossings of Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana look half-empty this Saturday after Mexico and the United States restricted non-essential travel in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
"I was unfortunately denied crossing into El Paso. I'm going to visit my parents, who are elderly, who need support, who can go and buy them an errand," Joel Sosa, who was looking to cross from Ciudad Juarez in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua, told AFP.
"I don't know how I'm going to be able to visit my parents, I'm a little worried because I'm going to be away from them for a long time," he added.
Mexico and the United States announced Friday a joint plan to restrict non-essential travel across the shared border in an attempt to curb the coronavirus pandemic, but without affecting trade.
The measure took effect this Saturday.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador thanked his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump, on Saturday for deciding not to close the border entirely and proposed that he speed up the entry into force of the T-MEC, the free trade agreement with Canada that will replace NAFTA.
However, the measure affected those who make their lives between Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, Texas.
"We buy things to sell here and right now we are not going to be able to buy anything, it does affect us but it is good because of the measure they are taking," said Leticia Vargas, a middle-aged woman.
In Tijuana, the situation is similar. Very few people crossed through the San Ysidro checkpoint into the United States, and those who sought to cross with their tourist visas were returned to Mexico.
This Saturday there was no line to cross on foot into the United States and few vehicles were seen at the border crossing.
Trump: US and Mexico to close the shared border to non-essential travel to curb virus spread
The U.S.-Mexico border will be closed to nonessential travel to further help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, President Donald Trump announced Friday.
"As we did with Canada, we're also working with Mexico to implement new rules at our ports of entry to suspend non-essential travel," Trump said. "These new rules and procedures will not impede lawful trade and commerce," Trump said that Mexico is also suspending air travel from Europe.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. has taken "two important steps" this week to curb the spread of the virus. He noted the border closure with Canada, announced Wednesday, would go into effect at midnight. He said the closure would last 30 days and reiterated the news Trump shared that the border with Mexico would also close.
"The United States and Mexico have agreed to restrict nonessential travel across our border," Pompeo said.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said that essential travel includes medical purposes, to attend educational institutions, for emergency response/public health purposes and lawful cross border trade.
"Tonight, at midnight, we will execute the CDC order by immediately returning individuals arriving without documentation to Canada, Mexico, as well as a number of other countries, without delay," Wolf added.
The State Department on Thursday issued a new travel alert urging Americans not to go abroad under any circumstances and to return home if they are already abroad unless they plan to remain overseas.
Pompeo repeated the Thursday announcement at the Friday briefing. "If you choose to travel internationally, your travel may be disrupted," he said.