TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Border communities just heard some welcome news. They depend on shoppers from Mexico to boost their economies but U.S. COVID rules kept them from entering the U.S. for the last 19 months. Now the border will reopen for non-essential south to north crossings sometime next month as long as the travellers are vaccinated against COVID.
In Nogales, Morley Avenue has been close to empty. It’s just across the border from Mexico so it normally attracts plenty of Mexican shoppers who simply walk through the legal border crossings nearby.
But in the abnormal world since COVID non essential crossings from Mexico to the U.S. have been barred---no Mexican shoppers, no visiting family on the U.S. side; only essential traffic like truckers hauling cargo has been allowed.
Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino says the rule against non-essential crossings stopped between 20 and 50 thousand visitors a day.
“Right now, there's actually a lot of businesses in the downtown area that did not survive. They already took their merchandise and moved on. I understand some of them went into Nogales, Sonora.”
Mayor Garino thinks vaccination rates and infection rates would have allowed the border to re-open to Mexicans two or three months ago but he’s happy to hear that Homeland Security is planning to re-open the border next month---in time for Christmas shopping. The exact reopening date has not been announced.
Senator Mark Kelly spent part of Wednesday with another aspect of the pandemic: touring Tucson Medical Center, learning more about how TMC’s been handling COVID, and passing out pizza to thank the staff for it’s hard, dangerous work.
He says re-opening the border requires a careful balance of health, and economic health. Now he’s happy border businesses will have a chance to bounce back.
“I was down just a few months ago at David's Boot Shop in Nogales. And, you know, here's a guy who's been in business for decades. The challenge he faced was I think 75 to 90% of his customers were from Nogales, Sonora.”
Money from Mexican tourists has an economic impact that reaches well past the border communities.
Visit Tucson is an organization that works to attract more visitors and business to our area.
It says normally about 20 million Mexicans visit Arizona each year and spend about two-point-five billion dollars in malls, restaurants and resorts.
Visit Tucson says there’s no reliable estimate on the money that did not come in because of the border closure.
Mayor Garino says south to north traffic for holiday shopping could bring in 100 thousand people a day. He hopes the ports will have enough staffing to avoid back ups.
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