SAN YSIDRO, Calif. (NewsNation) — Wait times improved Wednesday at points of entry along the U.S.-Mexican border.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said the situation improved because of the change in restrictions on non-essential travel. But many say the improvement follows days of inhumane waits which turned deadly in at least one case.
At the San Ysidro point of entry Wednesday, there were still long lines to get into the U.S. But the wait times were much shorter than days past, with a max said to be at six hours. People coming in Wednesday had heard the horror stories of inhumane conditions and excruciating waits.
Las Vegas resident Augustine Ornelas decided not to head into Mexico from San Diego because of the delays.
“I heard that they had to wait in line like 15 hours,” said Ornelas.
Customs and Border Patrol recently shifted its focus to crackdown on non-essential travel in order to prevent the spread of COVID.
The agency tells NewsNation it was an operational adjustment to get people to stop crossing the border unnecessarily.
A recent survey found nearly 65-percent of travelers were making non-essential trips.
Melissa Montanez said she is glad things have eased, shortening her trip home to Sacramento. She said she heard it was nine hours on Monday.
In the past week, the situation had cars breaking down or running out of gas while waiting. On Sunday, an 89-year-old woman died while waiting in a car in the northbound lanes.
There were also extremely long waits at other entry points, including into El Paso, Texas.
South of the border, the Mayor of Juarez, Mexico wants a complete stop to people going back and forth due to a high rate of COVID transmissions and deaths in his city.
“It’s only fair that traffic from north to south also be controlled to stop people from coming for non-essential business,” said Mayor Armando Cabada said through a translator.
With the drop in non-essential traffic due to the crackdown, those who budgeted extra time to get to their essential jobs Wednesday wound up with a lot of extra time. Tijuana resident Juan Carlos Partida crosses daily for an essential job in San Diego.
“I start at 5, and now it’s only two o’clock,” said Partida. “I’ve got three hours. I could have had one more hour or two at my house.”
The crackdown is especially hard on the many families with relatives in both countries. But due to COVID, CBP wants people to think twice about risking their lives and the lives of others. The tightened restrictions are expected to stretch through at least September 21st.