The U.S. will soon allow nonessential travelers from Canada and Mexico again
Speaker 1: (00:00)
The Biden administration announced today. It's easing travel restrictions at land border crossings after 19 months of closure to all but essential travel, San Diego mayor, Todd, Gloria praised the move in a press conference this morning.
Speaker 2: (00:15)
They're allowing families to be reunited. They're allowing businesses to get back to a sense of normalcy and they're allowing our local economy to finally fully recover.
Speaker 1: (00:24)
Starting in early November, foreigners entering the U S for non-essential travel. We'll have to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Joining me to discuss the development and its impact on San Diego is David shirk, department chair, and professor of political science and international relations at university of San Diego. Professor shirk. Welcome. Yes, thanks for having me border crossings from Taiwan. I have been taking place to some extent throughout the pandemic. So remind us what types of crossings were previously allowed and which can resume in November because of this announcement.
Speaker 3: (00:59)
So, um, with the, uh, near the start of the pandemic, the Trump administration imposed a restriction to, uh, border crossroads to only allow essential travel across, uh, us ports of entry, um, and any visitors who wanted to come to the United States for non-essential purposes, such as visiting business Disneyland could come in through airports, uh, and, um, uh, flying into the country. But for people living here in the border region, uh, only so-called essential travelers were, uh, permitted to come across our land bound ports of entry. Um, so that could include someone coming across for medical reasons. It could include someone who has a position that, uh, is listed among the federal categories of essential workers. Um, but, uh, it, it essentially meant that for Mexican nationals, um, working, working, or, or, uh, in a, in a situation where they were not considered essential, they could not come across the border from, uh, safety Quanta to San Diego, uh, for their, their, uh, otherwise for their so-called essential activities like visiting their grandchildren, or, uh, trying to, uh, go shopping and, or go out to restaurants, et cetera.
Speaker 1: (02:19)
How might these changes impact the local economy and how might they impact the lives of everyday people in our community? Well,
Speaker 3: (02:27)
Prior to the pandemic, um, you know, in February of 2020, we had, uh, on average around 200,000 people crossing the, uh, Santa Sedro, uh, Otay Mesa ports of entry into the San Diego, into San Diego county, um, on any given, uh, in any given day. And, um, by April of 2020, we saw that number dropped by more than 50%, uh, down to about 5,000 people crossing the border on a daily basis. So the ports of entry were really dramatically emptied. Uh, and over the course of 2020, we saw that number gradually go up, uh, uh, until about mid point this year, when we have, you know, around 160, 170,000 people crossing on a daily basis. So we've recuperated significantly, the number of people who are coming, um, uh, for so-called essential purposes, but there's still, you know, uh, tens of thousands of people who are not crossing the border, not coming across to you to visit SeaWorld, to use our risk, to go to our restaurants, um, and to engage in other quote unquote non-essential activities before our border community, and especially for, uh, south county businesses, uh, it's been quite devastating in terms of trying to, uh, you know, run local restaurants and, um, even hotels and other industries where there's a big dependence on both, uh, people who, uh, can live in Tijuana and legally work in the United States.
Speaker 3: (04:07)
And it depends obviously on the customers who would, would, uh, be coming across for, for ordinary, um, uh, commercial activities or, uh, shopping activities.
Speaker 1: (04:17)
Eric traveled to the U S has been permitted for non-essential travel, as long as the traveler could prove a negative COVID-19 test. So in some ways it's been easier to get to San Diego on a flight from Mexico city than crossing on foot or in a car at San Ysidro. Why was air travel treated differently than land border crossings?
Speaker 3: (04:38)
You know, it's, it is a crazy exception. I can't explain why that policy was chosen. I know in our case, we've had to fly colleagues, uh, from Mexico city and elsewhere, uh, in Mexico, uh, to Los Angeles, uh, or to San Diego in order to get them to come to professional activities here at the university of San Diego because of this odd loophole. Um, whereas normally we might fly them in the Tiguan airport and have them come across, uh, the, um, CDX facility. Um, we had to go through this extra step in order to bring vaccinated people, uh, here for professional purposes. Um, and I think, you know, the part of the problem in my view is that in Washington, there's really a difficulty in comprehending the, the realities of what it means to live in a cross border community and to, to go about your daily business in a place like San Diego and Tijuana, um, and this sort of perception that, you know, flying people in with a vaccination card is somehow safer than having people drive across with a vaccination card is a little bit foolish because there's so much intermingling in our communities anyway, that, um, I'm very personally skeptical that the border closure, uh, or restrictions have had any real effect in reducing cross border flows of COVID.
Speaker 1: (06:06)
I've been speaking with university of San Diego, professor David shirk and professor shirk. Thanks for joining us.
Speaker 3: (06:12)
My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
The United States is taking a major step toward reopening its borders with Canada and Mexico.
Beginning next month, the U.S. will allow nonessential travelers to enter the country along the long land borders it shares with its two neighbors.
Nonessential entry has been barred since the early weeks of the global COVID-19 pandemic, in March 2020. That's despite the fact that Canada began allowing vaccinated Americans back in in August.
Inbound nonessential travelers will have to prove they are fully vaccinated, along with other more standard paperwork required for legal entry.
The move parallels a recently announced step for international air travelers.
The Biden administration has not announced the exact date that either policy will go into effect, only saying "early November" in a call with reporters. Other details — like whether the U.S. will consider the many Canadians who received doses of two different COVID-19 vaccines as "fully vaccinated" — have not been clarified yet either.
As of right now, people traveling into the U.S. for essential reasons do not have to be vaccinated. Administration officials say they'll begin requiring vaccinations across the board — for both essential and nonessential travel — in January.
The vaccination mandates for foreign travelers are among the latest increasingly strict steps the Biden administration is taking to require COVID-19 shots.
President Biden began by urging Americans to get vaccinated, and then cheering on universities and private employers that imposed their own mandates. Biden then started imposing more limited vaccination requirements on health care workers, the U.S. military and other groups, before announcing that all employees at large workplaces would have to be inoculated or be tested weekly.
All these steps came as the delta variant surged across the United States, despite hundreds of millions of vaccines administered, and billions of dollars directed toward distributing more personal protective equipment, coronavirus tests and other efforts.
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