By Barbara Jimenez, 2L
The United States has announced that it will reopen its land borders with Mexico and Canada to fully vaccinated travelers this November. Due to Covid-19, the United States paused travel for nonessential travelers through the land borders in March 2020. Some individuals, such as students and commercial drivers, were never banned from travelling across the land borders, but will also need to show proof of vaccination starting in January. Unvaccinated, nonessential travelers are still banned from entering the United States.
While this news sound promising, it will be interesting to see how it will work in practice as officials are given heightened discretion at the borders. So far, officials have said that people entering the United States at the Mexican or Canadian borders will be questioned by Customs and Border Protection officers about their vaccination status before being allowed to cross. There will be limited exemptions for unvaccinated travelers from Mexico and Canada. However, the officers have been given the discretion to send travelers to secondary screenings for their documents to be checked.
But what does this reopening mean for individuals seeking asylum? Title 42, which has cut off access to asylum for thousands of migrants entering from Mexico, will stay in place. While the current administration has deemed Title 42 as necessary due to Covid-19, top public health experts assert that there is no evidence showing that mass expulsions prevent the spread of Covid-19. Instead, these measures might have the opposite effects, as keeping thousands of migrants under Customs and Border Protection may be strengthening the transmission of the disease. Consequently, the reopening of the border will not provide a positive change for asylum seekers.
Nonetheless, business owners and families will benefit from this change. This is because shopping malls and other retailers who depended heavily on customers coming from Mexico were hit by the travel restrictions. For instance, in Nogales, Arizona, 40 retail business closed due to the travel restrictions. In Del Rio, Texas, Mexican visitors account for about 65% of retail sale. For families, this will be particularly beneficial as the travel ban prevented family gatherings for those living on different sides of the border. Those close to the Canada border will also benefit from this regulation. For instance, the sports’ sector rejoiced as teams had not been able to have at-home games against Canadian opponents in 20 months. Now, these teams will be able to have the home game they have been waiting for.
Unfortunately, reopening the land borders with Mexico and Canada will not change the current climate of mass expulsion under Title 42. Nevertheless, lifting this travel restriction will reunite families and help boost the economy of businesses along the borders that were particularly impacted by the restrictions.