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The Gateway International Bridge between Matamoros, Tamaulipas, and Brownsville, Texas. The Gateway International Bridge between Matamoros, Tamaulipas, and Brownsville, Texas.

US agrees to Mexico request to close land border for another month

The restriction applies to nonessential traffic, though it is often not enforced on the Mexican side

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The land border between Mexico and the United States will remain closed to nonessential traffic for another month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Friday, although at many crossings the closure applies only to Mexican travelers heading north.

The Mexican government requested the extension to the closure, which has been in effect on a monthly basis since March to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“After reviewing developments regarding the spread of Covid-19 in both countries – and because various states are on the orange [coronavirus threat level] – Mexico proposed to the United States the extension by one month of nonessential land traffic on our common border,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Twitter.

By mutual agreement between the two nations, the border has been closed to all but essential land travel since March 21. The extension means that the border will stay closed until December 21.

The announcement is a blow to retailers on the American side of the border, who count on holiday shopping by Mexicans crossing into the U.S. during December. Downtown El Paso merchants recently told the newspaper Border Report that sales are down 70%-90% since the travel restrictions went into effect.

Mexicans, however, have generally been in favor of the border remaining closed, although many border town residents have expressed concern that the closure is one-sided: while Mexicans are not permitted to enter the U.S., tourists are able to enter Mexico from the U.S. seemingly without restriction.

Several critics had their say on Twitter in response to the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s tweet regarding the extension.

“[This is] ridiculous and absurd,” wrote one. “1. The restriction applies only to Mexicans. Aren’t Americans contagious when they go to Mexico? 2. The restriction is only for the land border. Is the virus not contagious when it travels by air? 3. Mexico is asking the U.S. to restrict [travel by] Mexicans.”

Said another: “Whey don’t they restrict access to American citizens, given that border cities on the U.S. side have the most Covid-19 cases? It’s incongruous that only Mexican citizens are restricted from crossing into the U.S.”

The Chihuahua Congress asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in October to enforce the border closures, saying that leniency on the Mexican side was a factor in the state’s Covid-19 spike last month.

Coronavirus continues to spike in border communities on both sides of the border. El Paso, Texas, and neighboring Ciudad Juárez have had a combined 957 Covid-19 fatalities in the past month. Both cities currently have overnight curfews in place to reduce the spread of the virus.

Source: Border Report (sp)

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