On Monday, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador revealed that he spoke with Vice President Kamala Harris about “the complete opening” of the roughly 2,000 mile border between the United States and Mexico, which has been closed to non-essential travel since March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Obrador tweeted, “We spoke again with Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States. In good terms, we dealt with the immigration issue, the complete opening of the northern border to reactivate our economies and continue with mutual cooperation to face the pandemic.”
Volvimos a conversar con Kamala Harris, vicepresidenta de Estados Unidos. En buenos términos, tratamos el asunto migratorio, la completa apertura de la frontera norte para reactivar nuestras economías y continuar con la mutua cooperación para enfrentar la pandemia de #COVID19. pic.twitter.com/7XeNVyJGRW
— Andrés Manuel (@lopezobrador_) August 9, 2021
“The White House said the two leaders discussed ongoing bilateral cooperation to address ‘irregular migration’ to the shared U.S.-Mexican border, and agreed to focus on bolstering Central American economies through investment in agriculture and climate resilience,” Reuters reported, adding, “The U.S. vice president also told Lopez Obrador that Washington was committed to sending additional doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Mexico, on top of the 4 million doses already delivered, the White House said.”
Earlier in the day, Lopez Obrador told a morning news conference, “This is what I’m going to suggest today, that we can demonstrate that we’re not putting the population at risk.”
The Trump administration closed the border with Mexico in March 2020; Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Chad F. Wolf wrote:
U.S. and Mexican officials have mutually determined that non-essential travel between the United States and Mexico poses additional risk of transmission and spread of COVID-19 and places the populace of both nations at increased risk of contracting COVID-19. Moreover, given the sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus, maintaining the current level of travel between the two nations places the personnel staffing land ports of entry between the United States and Mexico, as well as the individuals traveling through these ports of entry, at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Accordingly, and consistent with the authority granted in 19 U.S.C. 1318(b)(1)(C) and (b)(2), I have determined that land ports of entry along the U.S.- Mexican border will suspend normal operations and process for entry only those travelers engaged in “essential travel,” defined below, for entry into the United States. Given the definition of “essential travel” below, this temporary alteration in land ports of entry operations should not interrupt legitimate trade between the two nations or disrupt critical supply chains that ensure food, fuel, medicine, and other critical materials reach individuals on both sides of the border.
DHS stated that “essential travel” included:
U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States; Individuals traveling for medical purposes (e.g., to receive medical treatment in the United States); Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions; Individuals traveling to work in the United States (e.g., individuals working in the farming or agriculture industry who must travel between the United States and Mexico in furtherance of such work); Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes (e.g., government officials or emergency responders entering the United States to support Federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government efforts to respond to COVID-19 or other emergencies); Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade (e.g., truck drivers supporting the movement of cargo between the United States and Mexico); Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel; Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces, returning to the United States; and Individuals engaged in military-related travel or operations.