SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — An elderly woman died while waiting to cross into the U.S. from Mexico through the San Ysidro Port of Entry, where border crossers reported wait times of up to seven hours during the weekend, according to Mexican media sources in Tijuana.
Late Sunday, Tijuana journalist Alfredo Alvarez reported that police found the 89-year-old woman unresponsive about noon inside her car in the northbound lanes at the San Ysidro border crossing. The cause of death is unknown at this time.
The incident comes on the heels of U.S. Customs and Border Protection announcing a plan to slow down northbound traffic at several ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border, and so far, the plan appears to be working. As a way to crack down on people who may not be crossing for essential reasons, CBP said it has closed more lanes and instituted heavier inspections.
During the weekend, border commuters reported waiting up to seven hours at San Ysidro in South San Diego.
Since March, only U.S. citizens and legal residents have been allowed to cross back in the U.S., and you can’t cross the border in either direction for tourism, recreation, gambling or cultural activities. Restrictions were put in place by both Mexico and the U.S. to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re committed to continuing to facilitate cross border movement of essential travelers,” CBP spokesman Nate Peeters said. “These measures are only intended to address non-essential travel with the ultimate goal of the further inhibiting the cross-border spread of COVID-19.”
But people like Juan Romero said this has nothing to do with the virus.
“They close lanes, so we’ll be late for work, and we won’t want to cross anymore,” he said.
CBP insists it is closing vehicular and pedestrian lanes to reduce and discourage non-essential crossings at several ports of entry including San Ysidro, Otay Mesa and Calexico West.
“CBP trying to control or dissuade people from crossing will mean not as many people will cross and this will have a number of consequences along the border,” said Gustavo De la Fuente, Executive Director with the San Diego’s Smart Border Coalition.
He took it a step further saying the long border delays may be a message from the White House to Mexico to start enforcing essential travel restrictions for people visiting Mexico.
“This may be about pressure on Mexico, it’s not controlling U.S. citizens and green card holders from heading to Mexico without real reason for going, these people will then likely return to the U.S. they could take the virus there or bring it back,” De la Fuente said.
CBP reportedly surveyed 100,000 border commuters showing that many border crossings were not for essential reasons and this is why it launched the tougher restrictions.
While the cause of death for the woman waiting Sunday at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, Alvarez posted a video on social media of a silver sedan in which the woman was found, with what appears to be California license plates.
Other videos Alvarez shared showed people running out of gas and fueling up with gas cans.
The non-essential travel border restrictions have been extended monthly are are expected to remain in place through Sept. 21.