The Department of Homeland Security began requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination over the weekend for both essential and nonessential travel across the U.S.-Mexico border, Cronkite News reports. The tougher requirement effective Saturday was expected since last fall, when the government reopened the border to nonessential travel after nearly 20 months of pandemic restrictions. It raised concerns among officials in border towns, who are still reeling from the economic hit they took during the previous shutdown. Douglas, Az., Mayor Donald Huish acknowledged that the stricter vaccination requirements make sense to prevent transmission of COVID-19 between countries, but will hinder essential workers who fuel the economy.
The U.S.-Mexico border was closed to nonessential travel from March 2020 through Nov. 8, 2021. While returning U.S. citizens, truckers and health care workers were among those considered to be essential travelers, tourism and recreation travel were defined as nonessential and barred for those 20 months. As a result, tourism travel from Mexico to Arizona fell forty three percent from 2019 to 2020, and tourist spending fell by more than half, from $1.37 billion to $613 million in the same period, says the Maricopa Association of Governments. Nonessential travelers have had to have proof of vaccination since the border reopened to them in November, but the latest restriction expands that requirement to essential travelers.