In a show of solidarity, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria stood alongside National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina, and County Supervisor Nora Vargas, calling on the federal government to ease travel restrictions between Mexico into the United States.
The COVID-19 related travel restrictions have been in place since March 2020, and have had a devastating impact on the economy of businesses in the South Bay dependent on visitors from Mexico. The restrictions only allow for essential travel.
“We hope our friends in the federal government, both federal governments can work collaboratively and swiftly to reopen the border as quickly as possible. It is critical for our economic recovery for this to happen,” Gloria said.
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The group held an afternoon news conference after touring a vaccination center at the pedestrian port of entry in San Ysidro, where thousands of Mexican nationals are being vaccinated.
“Folks are getting vaccinated in Tijuana and northern Baja, that’s good news, so now we need to get this border open. We need to be open now,” Dedina said.
“The economic impact has been devastating to our community. Our residents have been waiting patiently, weathered the storm, they have followed the guidance,” Vargas said.
According to the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce, 197 businesses have gone out of business since the travel restrictions went into place.
The region typically averages $895 million in annual revenue in an average year. The past year saw revenue fall to $250 million, a 72% drop, according to Jason Wells, Executive Director of the chamber.
“Emotionally we’re drained. Drained and frustrated would probably be the first two words that come to mind,” Wells said.
Olivia Campos has owed Carolin Shoes on San Ysidro Blvd., in the heart of the local business district for 12 years. She says her business has seen a 50% decline in revenue since the travel restrictions went into place.
“It’s really sad and stressful, to be honest. We are worried every day, about how long we can keep the business open. Our business has done very bad since Mexican people are is not crossing the border,” Campos said.
Campos said she’s had to cut back on employee hours and she and her husband are at the business seven days a week. Sometimes they’ll close early because there simply aren’t any customers.
“I think safety is always important, but I think if the people are vaccinated, I think they should let them cross the border because supposedly, we can already take off our mask,” Campos said.
With thousands of people being vaccinated south of the border, business owners are frustrated the border restrictions remain in place.
“We’re really talking about recovery, not just for the San Ysidro, Baja region, we’re talking about the nation as a whole. We want all of our small businesses the opportunity to bring in merchandise, customer, and good quality of life,” Sotelo-Solis.
“If we’re over 80% now vaccinated in San Diego, then we’re protected. So we really hope and pray and expect that they run out of excuses,” said Wells.
Gloria said he’s reached out to the Biden Administration and legislative leaders in an effort to call attention to the issue. He asking the federal government for any kind of guidance or metric standard to expedite a reopening.
“Tell me what level of vaccination rate we have to get to on both sides of the border. Tell me what conditions we need. If we had that information, that would be hope for many of the small businesses that we’re talking about. Hope that they currently don’t have today. The best solution is to reopen. Short of that, give us some metrics that we can work,” Gloria said.