EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The U.S. will extend non-essential border travel restrictions through Nov. 21, Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf said on Twitter on Monday.
However, for the first time since DHS put the restrictions in place, Wolf left open the possibility of easing them in the future.
“We are working closely with Mexico and Canada to identify safe criteria to ease the restrictions in the future and support our border communities,” Wolf said in the tweet.
The federal government back in March issued non-essential travel restrictions on land crossings at the Mexican and Canadian border to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 across international borders.
Those restrictions have been renewed month ever since, leading to hours-long waits at border crossings and severe losses for American border city merchants who depend on Mexican shoppers who no longer can come in with their tourist or frequent crosser visas.
In El Paso, Mayor Dee Margo last month said he had asked U.S. Customs and Border Protection to revisit the policy, given that U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents by law have to be allowed back into the country and continue to shop or visit relatives in Mexico anyway.
Downtown El Paso merchants have told Border Report their sales are down between 70% and 90% since the travel restrictions began.
In South Texas, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) earlier this month said CBP had instructed his agents to begin discussions with local communities on how best to begin the process of safely easing restrictions in some areas.