Bridge restrictions extended until July 21

Trucks go through a secondary inspection after crossing the United States border via the Veterans International Bridge on Jan. 10, 2019. Eddie Gaspar for The Texas Tribune

The Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Affairs announced Tuesday morning via Twitter that the restrictions at the United States-Mexico border that have been in place since March 21 due to the COVID-19 pandemic will continue until July 21.

The entity said the restrictions imposed by both the United States and Mexico will stay in place for non-essential travel via land. With these restrictions, Mexican citizens who hold a Visa are not able to cross to the United States unless they have an essential appointment such as donating plasma.

The Department of Homeland Security said in a Tuesday press release that the extension of the restrictions protects Americans while keeping essential trade and travel flowing as they reopen the American economy.

“Based on the success of the existing restrictions and the emergence of additional global COVID-19 hotspots, the Department will continue to limit non-essential travel at our land ports of entry with Canada and Mexico,” the release reads.

During a press conference last week, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. said it is not fair for the economy at the border to have Mexican Visa holders not be able to cross into the United States since U.S. citizens are still able to cross into Mexico for their necessities and that the economies on both sides of the border depend vastly on tourism.

“If the rest of the State, and the rest of the country, is reopening, why should the border be singled out? For that reason, in other words, we live by the people who live and work on both sides of the border,” he said. “… if they are not going to allow us and are not going to give us the funds that we need … and also impact all the small businesses that are on the border, here in the Valley and all the way to El Paso, that are being impacted by these bridge restrictions, by the crossing restrictions, there ought to be some consideration for that.

“Perhaps, this extension is politically motivated, immigration related. I hope not, but if we are opening up why aren’t we opening up?”

While Matamoros Mayor Mario Lopez has been advocating to close the border to U.S. citizens and residents in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, head of the Undersecretariat of Prevention and Health Promotion at the Mexican Secretariat of Health, has said multiple times during their daily press conference that closing the border will not stop the spread.

“There is not a single scientific proof that these extreme measures could decrease the risk of infection,” Lopez Gatell said during a press conference in March.

Last month, Matamoros started implementing restrictions as well such as no more than two people in the same car, no children in the vehicles and mandatory face masks. The Tamaulipas government also imposed restrictions on car plate numbers to decrease the number of people out in the streets.

“The secretary of the city council, Federico Fernández Morales said the purpose of the strict application of safe sanitary measures is to mitigate the contagion rate, given the fact that Matamoros cannot afford to loosen the restrictions, due to the high number of positive cases,” a press release by the Matamoros local government reads.