Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is expected to discuss the eventual reopening of the U.S.-Mexico border during meetings in Mexico City on Tuesday.
“I’m looking forward to a productive visit that will further strengthen the close partnership between our two nations,” Mayorkas said in a post on Twitter.
I’ve just arrived in Mexico City for my first foreign trip as @DHSGov Secretary. I’m looking forward to a productive visit that will further strengthen the close partnership between our two nations. pic.twitter.com/aSnm3ZHIZe— Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (@SecMayorkas) June 15, 2021
Mayorkas arrived in Mexico City late Monday, his first trip abroad as chief of the nation’s border authority. His visit follows a high-profile meeting last week between Vice President Kamala Harris and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
The two countries agreed to form a binational working group to study the conditions necessary to reopen the U.S.-Mexico border to everyday trade and travel. Since midnight on March 21, 2020, land ports of entry have been closed to all but “essential” travel.
In practice, U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents have been able to cross the border as usual, while the restrictions have prohibited Mexican nationals with valid tourist visas from crossing at land ports of entry. They still can fly to the U.S., however.
In their 16th month, the border restrictions have been especially onerous on Borderland residents accustomed to crossing the border regularly to shop or visit with friends and family.
Jon Barela, CEO of the Borderplex Alliance, previously said 15% to 30% of all retail trade occurring in El Paso before the pandemic was from shoppers and visitors from Mexico. The alliance is a nonprofit group that promotes business and economic development in the Juárez, El Paso and Southern New Mexico region.
But the COVID-19 pandemic hit both sides hard in the border region, and Mexico has been slow to vaccinate its border cities.
Following the bilateral meeting between Harris and López Obrador, Mexican officials said the U.S. agreed to donate 1.35 million doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Mexico plans to distribute them to 18- to 40-year-olds in its northern border cities, with an eye on raising vaccination rates to facilitate the reopening of the border.
The doses arrived in Mexico City on Tuesday.
Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, who met with Mayorkas in Mexico City, said that after the vaccinations “there will be no public health arguments for keeping the border closed.”
Nearly 73% of El Paso County residents 12 and older have been inoculated with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots.
In Juárez, residents 50 and older have had access to one dose of vaccines, including the AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and CanSino brands. In addition, the city’s eldest residents have had the opportunity to receive two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Source: El Universal