Texas county judge wants feds to re-open border to Mexicans ‘immediately’

Coronavirus

Samaniego: Travel restrictions hinder economy, privilege wealthy over poor

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — El Paso County expects to have vaccinated 30,000 citizens from Mexico by early next week as part of a campaign to boost regional COVID-19 immunity.

“We are going to be hitting 30,000 by early next week,” County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said on Friday. “We are extremely excited about the logistics and coordination at the Tornillo (port of entry). It has been almost flawless. We plan to do 50,000 by Aug. 2.”

Samaniego hopes recent successes on the COVID-19 front — hospitalizations, new cases and deaths remain low and Juarez is rapidly increasing its partial vaccination rate — will persuade the U.S. government to roll back non-essential land travel restrictions by next week.

“We are ready. I think they should open the border immediately because that is the only way we’re going to deal with the challenges. We cannot deal with those challenges when we are artificially keeping apart two communities that have always been one,” he said.

The county judge proposes letting the Mexican visitors come into the country to get COVID-19 vaccines at the El Paso County Coliseum and other venues.

The U.S., Mexico and Canada in March 2020 restricted non-essential land travel at their common borders to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The restrictions have been renewed monthly through July 21. Canadian officials are saying they will roll back restrictions on Americans by mid-August and Samaniego hopes that will happen on the Southern border sooner.

“I hope it doesn’t go beyond July 21. I’m hoping it ends, but there might be an outside chance — and I’ve been hearing some comments — that it might be moving toward Aug. 21. But it would be ridiculous to go beyond Aug. 21 because the Texas economy is open and people are able to fly in from Mexico to any place in the U.S.,” he said. “We ought to be able to let people walk across, too. It’s a matter of equality. If you have money, you can fly in, but if you do not, you can’t come in. That’s not the right thing to do.”

A large line of cars on the Paso del Norte Bridge near Downtown El Paso wait to enter the United States. There are only two lanes open for commuter vehicles. (KTSM Photo/Raul Martinez)

Binational vaccination already took place in Tijuana-San Diego and will take place in South Texas as well. Samaniego said El Paso County health officials offered a “best practices” session to Hidalgo County, Texas, officials recently, sharing logistical and hands-on information about how cross-border COVID-19 vaccinations can safely and efficiently take place.

“We are trying to send a message that we need to open the borders and what better way than to show coordinated vaccinations,” the county judge said. “That might be a strong factor as to whether or not we’re able to handle vaccinations of individuals crossing the border. We’ve shown without a doubt that we are really good at these logistics. It’s been a great success all around.”

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