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Businesses prepare for US-Mexico land border reopening

Retail, restaurant and transportation services hope for holiday boom
Published: Nov. 1, 2021 at 7:14 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Preparations are underway at the U.S.-Mexico border. Starting on Monday, Nov. 8, fully vaccinated Mexicans will be able to cross the land border for non-essential trips.

With a date set and the holidays coming up, many in Nogales, Arizona, are hoping things will finally turn around.

“[I’m] very, very excited,” said Martin Martinez, who owns Tiburon Shuttle.

Martinez’s entire livelihood is just feet from the border on Grand Avenue. He owns a shuttle service that brings travelers around Nogales and to and from Tucson and Phoenix. The continued border closure really put the brakes on his business.

“It doesn’t even equivalate to 60% of the income that [we] usually make,” Martinez said.

Meanwhile, Martinez has had to pay his drivers and keep the shuttles gassed up and insured.

On Morley Avenue, about half of the shops are now boarded up.

“It was very hard to see,” said Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino. “The hardest thing for me is first to go through COVID, then to go through the shutdowns and then after the Governor said, ‘We are going to open all stores,’ they didn’t have any customers. Not only that, they also lost employees. Stores were trying to open a couple hours a day. A month goes by, all of the sudden there is nothing in the store anymore. That tells me they are gone, they gave up. Then I find out that a lot of them moved to Nogales, Sonora, and that’s where they are doing business. Those stores that you see right now that are empty are probably not coming back.”

Garino says the City of Nogales is working on incentives to bring business back.

Visitors will have to be fully vaccinated to walk or drive into the US. Garino says Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers are now possessing visas at the Morley Avenue port of entry to help cut down on wait times on Nov. 8.

Store owners we spoke with said they’ll “believe it when they see it” after nearly two years of false hope. Garino says this time is different, adding he received a call from Washington.

“We met with CBP last week; the deputy city manager, manager, myself, and one of the county supervisors, and yes, they told us it would be open,” Garino said.

It comes just in time for holiday traffic, which is the busiest time for border crossings. Garino says in a normal year between Oct. and Jan., the border community gets 85,000 to 100,000 shoppers from Mexico.

“[If we get even a fraction of that,] it might be a good Christmas,” he said.

Nogales, Arizona, has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country. Garino tells us over 90% of the population is fully vaccinated, with many receiving booster shots.

“We have worked very hard to make sure that we have done our part to have that port open,” he said. “With the help of our heath department, the city and the county, we will hopefully be successful with this and end this year on a good note. It’s not just for businesses, but, more importantly, to reunite families.”

Nogales, Sonora, is significantly behind at about 45% of the population fully vaccinated, at last check. Officials hope reopening the border will encourage more people in Mexico to get their shot. The COVID-19 vaccine is being offered at ports of entry in Nogales.

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