‘I am so happy’: US land border reopens to vaccinated Mexican tourists

by Lauren Villagran at El Paso Times

EL PASO, Texas — The U.S. reopened the border to vaccinated Mexican tourists Monday.

Shortly after midnight in the Eastern time zone, El Paso’s three 24-hour international ports of entry began welcoming Mexican nationals with valid tourist visas after nearly two years of border restrictions.

About a dozen people waited at the top of the Paso del Norte bridge, visas in hand, to enter the U.S into El Paso.

Alicia Tagle, 60, clutched a clear plastic folder full of documents. She said she was going to request an I-94 permit to see her sister in Colorado. Monday night she’d stay with an aunt.

“I am so happy,” she said. “My aunt is just waiting for us to call her when we cross.”

At the Bridge of the Americas, better known as the “free bridge” because there is no toll, passenger vehicles stretched about a mile into Juárez, Mexico.

Five portable toilets were set up in the home stretch – a sign that the Mexican government is expecting extreme wait times – and side roads were barricaded to prevent cars from cutting into the line.

Juárez residents have been waiting nearly two years for the U.S. to lift restrictions on non-essential travel. On Sunday night, the moment was hours away.

Downtown, pedestrians waited with their visas and vaccine cards ahead of the 12 a.m. Eastern time zone reopening.