As Zitalic Diaz, a resident of Tijuana was walking across the border from Mexico to San Ysidro, she noticed something surprising.
“It was faster today, it took me like 10 minutes to cross,” she said.
The wait time was faster for drivers, too, even when having to show proof of COVID vaccinations. Alejandro Rodriguez who lives in Ensenada said, “I thought it would be harder to cross, like six hours, but we made it in two hours because of the permit.”
There’s been pent-up demand for family visits, shopping and leisure travel to the United States on the part of Mexican visa holders who have been unable to cross since COVID restrictions began in March 2020. San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria on Monday advised travelers, “We are anticipating longer wait times at the border and advise people to choose off-peak times if possible… I ask for people to be patient as customs and border protection prepares for the influx of travelers.”
Moises Castillo is the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer in charge of the San Ysidro Port of Entry. Last week, he said extra resources would be stationed at border crossings to prevent traffic tie-ups. “We are reassigning officers from different areas and putting them in our primary and secondary area to speed up the process.”
U.S. Department of Transportation data obtained by NBC 7 Investigates shows pre-pandemic, in February 2020, 775,305 pedestrians crossed from Mexico into San Ysidro. There were 1,311,967 personal vehicles driving across.
In August 2021, that number was down to 447,206 pedestrians and 1,248,233 personal vehicles.
In Otay Mesa, pre-pandemic in February 2020, there were 267,170 pedestrians who crossed the port of entry and 465,008 personal vehicles.
In August 2021, 205,070 pedestrians walked over and 429,424 personal vehicles went from Mexico to Otay Mesa.
Yamiles Rodriguez, who lives in Tijuana and works at the Las Americas Premium Outlets in San Ysidro, says she hopes the wait times don’t increase as the day goes on and people realize the border is back open to non-essential travelers.
“I am thinking in a couple more hours it might get long,” said Rodriguez. “Because people are going to be like, ‘there is no one crossing, let’s just go’!”
Some people traveling Monday said wait times will likely increase Saturday and Sunday when the weekend comes and more leisure travelers are likely to come across the border. Traffic is also expected to increase as the holidays approach.