LAREDO, Texas – United States Representative Henry Cuellar predicts a big Christmas for border communities now that land ports of entry are reopened to Mexican visa holders.
Mexican nationals who do not work in so-called “essential” industries have been barred from crossing through land ports to the United States since March 20 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, however, international bridges between the United States and Mexico and the United States and Canada will be open to “non-essential” travelers from November 8, provided they can prove that they have been fully. vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the World Health Organization. . The move was announced by US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas last week.
“Whether it’s downtown Laredo or downtown in any part of the border, that basically means they’ll get their buyers back. Which means it will be a really good Christmas, ”Cuellar said.
Cuellar, D-Laredo, made his remarks during a webinar he hosted immediately after DHS announced the reopening of the bridges.
“First of all, I got a call from the White House last night. I received a call from the Secretary of Homeland Security, Mayorkas, early this morning. I have a call with Acting Commissioner Troy Miller about some details. But I can tell you the details are being worked out right now, ”Cuellar said in his introduction to the webinar.
Troy Miller is the Acting Commissioner for Customs and Border Protection.
Cuellar said there were two aspects to DHS’s decision or to reopening the bridges. The first affects so-called non-essential travelers from Mexico.
“If they have proof of the vaccine (Covid-19), they will be able to enter the United States. It means tourism, family members can see family members or come shopping. It will open, ”Cuellar said.
The second aspect of the new decision takes effect in January, Cuellar said.
“Anyone entering the United States, any foreigner, which means, of course, Canadians, but for us Mexicans, essential and non-essential, will have to show proof of vaccines (Covid-19),” Cuellar said. .
Cuellar said the DHS decision is a huge boost for border communities.
“What does this mean to us? It means (good news) on two fronts, the economy and the family. Before the pandemic, we were receiving 18 million Mexicans who came in and would spend $ 19 billion.”
Later, when Mayorkas announced the exact date for the reopening of the border bridges, Cuellar released this statement:
“November 8 will be the day fully vaccinated non-essential travelers will be permitted to enter the United States through our land and sea ports. I would like to thank the White House for its thoughtfulness in this decision. I’ve been fighting for this for months and now we finally have an exact date when our border businesses will once again receive Mexican consumers and families reunite after 19 months. I am currently working with local authorities on both sides of the border to ensure that when the day comes, we will have the resources to keep all American citizens safe.
Cuellar added: On November 8, our local economies will be reinvigorated and our path back to normalcy will be mapped. With the date fast approaching, I will work tirelessly with relevant federal, state and local entities to ensure that we are ready to receive foreign nationals through our land entry points in terms of personnel, equipment and support. technology. I will continue to promote and facilitate vaccination campaigns on the American and Mexican sides. “
Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz was on the webinar. He said he was “ecstatic” about the DHS announcement.
“This is really great news for the border area,” Saenz said. “So many businesses have been strongly impacted, in the city center in particular. They are so dependent on Mexican buyers. So we are thrilled and hope that… we are just waiting for that date so that we can see these tourists and buyers coming to our city.
Saenz said 30 to 40 percent of Laredo’s sales tax came from Mexican buyers. “And the families (were affected). Laredo and Nuevo Laredo and the region are so closely linked, from a family perspective. It’s going to mean a lot of hugs and kisses and a lot of celebrating locally. “
Laredo Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman Michael Marasco and new CEO Gabriela Morales made the following statement:
“According to a statement from the US Department of Homeland Security, fully vaccinated travelers from Canada and Mexico will be allowed entry into the United States for non-essential purposes, including visiting friends and family or for go sightseeing.
“The Laredo Chamber of Commerce applauds the decision to reopen the border and welcomes those who have long waited to meet their consumer needs. As a border town, the significance of this announcement and its economic impact is clear, as it is businesses in Texas border towns that have been hit hard by the financial wrath of the global pandemic. Reports show that retail sales in Texas border towns have fallen 60% since the border closed. This week’s announcement by Secretary Mayorkas will bring us closer to the ability to build back better.
“However, while this week’s announcement brings heightened optimism, what it does not bring is the guaranteed prospect of increased consumerism. Governments can open the doors of nations to travelers, but it behooves us as business owners to get those travelers through the doors of our businesses. We cannot afford to assume that trade will come to us by default. It’s up to us as retailers and suppliers of goods and services that we capitalize on this moment. We need to make every effort to raise awareness and promote to make sure these consumers choose Laredo over any other city.
“Over the next few weeks, we invite businesses and the wider community to reflect on how, together, we can take advantage of this opportunity to rebuild and reshape our city’s economy. Let’s also think about inventories and how we can prepare for the next holiday season. And finally, let us partner with each other, making sure that collaboration and unification will lead us to the results of the economic recovery that we have been desperately seeking for nineteen months. The Chamber is there to support members and non-members.
Marasco and Morales said businesses can request a meeting with a representative from the Laredo Chamber of Commerce by calling (956) 722-9895.
Editor’s Note: The attached podcast includes comments made during the webinar by Congressman Henry Cuellar, Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz, Rio Grande City public relations specialist Angelina Villarreal and owner of the International Bridge Starr-Camargo Sam Vale.
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