South Texas officials concerned about rising COVID-19 cases across the border in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico

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Laredo mayor asking White House to allow Mexicans to cross land bridges to get vaccine

A 15-year-old receives a first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccination clinic at the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA on May 14, 2021. (Patrick T. Fallon / AFP / Getty Images)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The mayor of Laredo is worried about his South Texas town.

Across the border in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, coronavirus cases are on the rise, prompting officials to reinstate stricter safety measures. So, Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz is calling for Mexican nationals to be allowed to cross to get COVID-19 vaccines.

Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz

Saenz told Border Report on Friday he has reached out to Republican U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, as well as U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Laredo, expressing concerns about COVID-19 cases south of the border.

This came after Nuevo Laredo this week returned to Phase I restrictions, which reduces occupancy at bars and businesses to 50% and requires the use of face masks. At least 16 other cities in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas are also included in these stricter COVID-19 prevention measures, Mexican officials said.

“Nuevo Laredo has reverted to original COVID-19 restrictions of 50% occupancy in businesses, face masks, etc. This is obviously a set back. The solution is getting Mexican vaccinated. Texas border communities have surplus vaccines and can help,” Saenz wrote Thursday in a text to the lawmakers, which was shared with Border Report.

In addition, he has signed a resolution petitioning the Biden administration to reopen land ports, and specifically international bridges in Laredo, “to prioritize vaccines to our sister city of Nuevo Laredo.”

The Laredo City Council on June 21 took up a discussion and agreed to the resolution, which will be sent to the White House outlining their fears and concerns, Saenz said.

“The key to all of that obviously is getting more Mexicans vaccinated. For us, it’s getting the border Mexican residents vaccinated, especially in Nuevo Laredo. So if we have a surplus vaccine — and I was told in Laredo that we do and we have access to other vaccines by barely asking for them — so why not lift the restrictions, allow these Mexicans with tourist visas to come to Laredo to our land bridges and get vaccinated?” Saenz said Friday afternoon.

In May, Laredo became one of the first border cities in the Southwest to begin a tourism campaign to attract Mexican nationals to fly into the city’s airport to get coronavirus vaccines. A clinic is operated at the airport, and Mexican nationals with valid visas are also encouraged to have scheduled vaccine appointments prior to their arrival.

Saenz says the flights, which originate in Mexico City, are full. And he says the city has ample supply of vaccines and the ability to procure more, if needed.

He suggested opening up the land bridges to border Mexicans to do the same thing.

“These are people that have money to purchase a plane ticket. Why not then allow people that have tourist visas, that possibly cannot afford a plane ticket, but they can certainly afford the bridge fee, the toll, to come?” he said. “We’re just hurting ourselves. We can help the United States, us, Laredo through the surplus vaccines and yet the restrictions have not been lifted.”

We’re just hurting ourselves. We can help the United States, us, Laredo through the surplus vaccines and yet the restrictions have not been lifted.”

Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz

The land ports between the United States and Mexico, and Canada, have remained closed to non-essential travel since March 2020 when the Trump administration implemented Title 42 restrictions to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Saenz says it’s unfortunate that just as they were pushing for Title 42 restrictions to be lifted that Mexico is having a surge in coronavirus cases.

“It’s a setback obviously for us. We’ve been waiting for the lifting of these restrictions,” Saenz said.

The request to give vaccines to Mexicans in Laredo comes as Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador earlier this week said he is working with U.S. officials north of the border to help with a massive vaccination campaign that is ongoing in northern Mexican cities south of Southern California and Arizona, including Altar, Sonoita, Agua Prieta and Nogales.

In Tijuana, San Diego health authorities facilitated vaccinations for maquiladora workers. In El Paso, county authorities are getting ready to vaccinate at least 30,000 maquiladora workers from Juarez starting next week.

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