EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The U.S., Mexico and Canada have extended non-essential land travel restrictions through March 21, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced.

This will make it a full year since citizens of those countries have been discouraged from crossing the border for recreation and tourism, visit friends or family members or purchase groceries or gasoline readily available in their own countries.

The restrictions apply to those who travel on foot or vehicles, ferries, rail or to coastal ports of entry, as well as immigrants and non-immigrants traveling for purposes that U.S. authorities do not consider essential. Restrictions don’t apply to commercial air or sea travel. U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents (LPR) are allowed to return to the United States during this period.

The restrictions first went into effect in March 2020 to minimize cross-border spread of COVID-19. On the U.S.-Mexico border, merchants in cities like El Paso, Texas have seen a dramatic decrease in customers coming across from Mexico during the restrictions.

Some U.S. citizens and legal residents have also expressed frustration at not being allowed to visit relatives, as many of them have family members — including parents and even spouses — in Mexican border cities and were used to seeing them every weekend.

A University of Texas at El Paso economist this month said he anticipates a phased rollback of non-essential travel restrictions in the second half of 2021.

But so far there’s been no word from the Biden administration as to when restrictions will begin to be lifted.

“Local jurisdictions are moving to re-start their economies and allowing more businesses to reopen […] (But) federal travel restrictions along the land borders continue,” CBP said on its web page.

When Mexico’s Foreign Ministry informed its citizens of the continuation of restrictions late Friday, the backlash was immediate on social media platforms.

“You can cross (the border) on a plane where there is no social distancing, but you cannot cross by land in your own car, even if you are alone or with people who are close to you? Wow! What’s the logic?” tweeted Itzelh Gonzalez.

“These are restrictions for us (Mexicans) because they (Americans) come in and out of Mexico without even showing identification because they aren’t even asked for their passports,” added Gerardo Jauregui.

The Mexican Foreign Ministry said it asked the U.S. to extend the restrictions because several of its states are still on high threat level for COVID-19.

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