LAREDO, Texas – The Holy Week pilgrimage to San Antonio by thousands of Mexican shoppers is expected to suffer due to federal restrictions barring non-essential travel through ports of entry.
The only travelers allowed to enter are those flying into the U.S.
“There is little doubt, from a business perspective, that an open ground border option would help Mexican travelers have a stronger impact on our local businesses, including hotels, restaurants, attractions, and shopping,” said Dave Krupinski, interim president and CEO of Visit San Antonio.
Congressman Henry Cuellar of Laredo, who represents District 28, said he had been trying to change the month-to-month policy that began under President Donald Trump, to limit cross-border traffic during the pandemic.
“We got very, very, very close to opening up the border. But it just didn’t open,” Cuellar said.
However, Cuellar said he hasn’t given up. He said he’s spoken to the top public health adviser to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, as well as the secretary himself last week.
“They’re going to be looking at how we can open up,” Cuellar said. “Hopefully, no more than 60 days from now.”
Cuellar said before the pandemic, an estimated 18 million Mexican nationals had spent nearly $20 billion in the U.S.
In San Antonio alone, Krupinski said that normally 90% of its 2.5 million international travelers are from Mexico.
Last year, however, he said, San Antonio saw 900,000 international travelers.
He said San Antonio averaged 74% hotel occupancy from Wednesday through Sunday of Semana Santa.
After the pandemic began, he said that dropped it to 43%.
Cuellar said he has given the Homeland Security secretary a plan of COVID-19 protocols.
He said it would involve those wanting to enter the U.S. to provide proof of vaccinations or negative COVID-19 results, or even have border cities do the testing, as Mayor Pete Saenz has suggested.
“There is a way to do this safely,” Cuellar said.