As Canada reopens its borders, San Ysidro businesses still hurt by travel restrictions

SAN YSIDRO, Calif. – This week, Canada lifted its prohibition on Americans crossing the border to shop, vacation or visit. In San Ysidro, many wonder when the U.S. will lift its own restrictions on nonessential travelers, which have come at a heavy cost to the community.

The lifting of Canadian restrictions was welcome news for Cameron Prosser. He’s eager to visit a friend who lives north of the border.

“We have been unable to visit during this time, but now that they have opened the borders, I’ll probably take a few days go up there and hang out with him,” Prosser said.

U.S. citizens and legal residents must be both fully vaccinated and test negative for COVID-19 within three days to get across one of the world’s longest and busiest land borders, and Canadian officials warn they won’t sacrifice safety for shorter border waits. Travelers also must fill out a detailed application on the arriveCAN app before crossing.

The U.S.-Canada border has been closed to nonessential travel since March 2020 to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Canada will allow fully vaccinated foreign travelers to enter the country Sept. 7.

The U.S. has said it will extend its closure to all Canadians making nonessential trips until at least Aug. 21, which also applies to the Mexican border. But the Biden administration is beginning to make plans for a phased reopening. The main requirement would be that nearly all foreign visitors to the U.S. will have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Restrictions on nonessential travel continue to hurt border communities like San Ysidro. In May, the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce reported that nearly 200 local businesses closed in the past year in large part due to the travel restrictions implemented by the federal government.

About 95% of San Ysidro’s Boulevard’s clientele comes from Mexico and the restrictions have come at a cost to the community of hundreds of millions of dollars throughout the pandemic, according to the chamber.

Earlier this year, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and other regional leaders called on the Biden administration to fully reopen the border, but restrictions have been extended several times.

As a result, Las Americas worker Jesus Garcia says sales are down.

“They demand a lot from us moneywise and a lot of our market and where we get our money is from Mexican citizens and we don’t have that right now,” Garcia said.