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San Diego mayor, other officials plead to reopen border as vaccination efforts advance

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria speaks at press conference with District 1 Supervisor Nora Vargas
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria speaks at a news conference with San Diego County Supervisor Nora Vargas at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on Thursday.
(Brittany Cruz-Fejeran / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Elected leaders pushed this week for the lifting of U.S.-Mexico border restrictions, which they say have harmed the region’s economy.

“As we embark on this recovery post-pandemic, we absolutely cannot do that fully until the border is fully reopened,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said during a news conference Thursday, after touring a cross-border COVID-19 vaccination site near the closed PedWest border crossing.

“This is justified as we’ve seen vaccination rates increase and infection rates fall,” Gloria said.

Gloria was joined in a news conference by Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina, National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solís and San Diego County Supervisor Nora Vargas.

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The U.S.-Mexico land border crossing has been closed to nonessential travel since March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The closures have been extended every month since.

On Sunday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that restrictions will remain through at least July 21.

The crossing has been closed to non-essential travel since March 2020

Local officials noted the ongoing vaccination efforts on both sides of the border.

In San Diego County, about 77% of residents 12 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and around 65% are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Baja California is about to complete a plan to administer more than 1 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines donated by the U.S. government to Mexico.

As of Thursday, almost 60% of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated in Baja California, according to the latest data from the state’s health secretary.

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“Folks are getting vaccinated in Tijuana and northern Baja, that’s good news. Now we need to get this border open,” Dedina said.

Urge que se abra la frontera. No mañana, ahorita,” he added in Spanish, meaning that it is urgent to reopen the border, not tomorrow but now.

Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina speaks at several microphones
Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina speaks at the news conference Thursday.
(Brittany Cruz-Fejeran / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The economic effects of the closures have been widespread.

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In San Ysidro, nearly 200 businesses that relied heavily on customers crossing the border from Tijuana were forced to close, Vargas said.

Last month, the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce estimated its businesses have lost more than $644 million in sales and 1,900 jobs from March 2020 to March 2021.

“The economic impact has been devastating for our communities,” Vargas said.

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Sotelo-Solís added that it is time for federal authorities in Mexico and the U.S. to consider the fact that many families are being affected.

Gloria said he has been in touch with officials from the Biden administration to let them know about these concerns.

Although this is a federal decision, local leaders said they will do everything they can. “This is about small businesses in San Diego,” Gloria said. “They need us to speak out on their behalf.”

Gloria added he would like to know under what conditions or metrics the border will reopen for nonessential travel. “If we had that information, that would be hope for a lot of the small businesses.”

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“Give us a target, we will meet it.”


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