Pharr International Bridge Closing to Nonessential Travel, Commerce & Trade to Continue; Pharr Opens Call Center for Coronavirus Info

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FRIDAY, MARCH 20, 2020
Pharr, Texas – Amid the rapidly-evolving situation regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19), the City of Pharr and Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez will be providing regular updates to keep the media and the public informed as information develops. City officials urge media to please share with your reading/viewing/listening audiences.

Pharr International Bridge Closing to Nonessential Travel

President Trump announced this morning that in an effort to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the U.S.-Mexico border will be closed to nonessential travel. The Pharr International Bridge will be closing all nonessential travel to and from Mexico as per the president’s announcement beginning at midnight tonight. 

“The City of Pharr has been proactively approaching our response to COVID-19 and has taken every step necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of our citizens,” said Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez, M.D. “We support the President’s decision to close all nonessential travel between the U.S.-Mexico border and applaud his decision to allow our lifeline of commerce and trade to continue,” he continued. “Our country is relying on the delivery of goods from trade and commerce at this very pivotal moment and we will continue to also ensure the safety and well-being of our truck drivers as they continue providing their services to meet our needs here and across the border,” added Hernandez.

U.S. and Mexican officials have mutually determined that nonessential travel between the United States and Mexico poses the additional risk of transmission and spread of COVID-19 and places the populace of both nations at increased risk of contracting COVID-19.

“Accordingly, and consistent with the authority granted in 19 U.S.C. 1318(b)(1)(C) and (b)(2),4 I have determined that land ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexican border will suspend normal operations and process for entry only those travelers engaged in “essential travel,” defined below, for entry into the United States,” said Acting General Counsel from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Chad R. Mizelle in a letter to local leaders. “Given the definition of “essential travel” below, this temporary alteration in land ports of entry operations should not interrupt legitimate trade between the two nations or disrupt critical supply chains that ensure food, fuel, medicine, and other critical materials reach individuals on both sides of the border,” he added. 

For purposes of the temporary alteration in certain designated ports of entry operations authorized under 19 U.S.C. 1318(b)(1)(C) and (b)(2), travel through the land ports of entry and ferry terminals along the United States-Mexico border shall be limited to “essential travel” which includes, but is not limited to —
• U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States;

• Individuals traveling for medical purposes (e.g., to receive medical treatment in the United States);

• Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions;

• Individuals traveling to work in the United States (e.g., individuals working in the farming or agriculture industry who must travel between the United States and Mexico in furtherance of such work);

• Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes (e.g., government officials or emergency responders entering the United States to support Federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government efforts to respond to COVID-19 or other emergencies);

• Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade (e.g., truck drivers supporting the movement of cargo between the United States and Mexico);

• Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel;

• Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces, returning to the United States; and

• Individuals engaged in military-related travel or operations.

The following travel does not fall within the definition of “essential travel” for purposes of this notification:

• Individuals traveling for tourism purposes (e.g., sightseeing, recreation, gambling, or attending cultural events).

The Texas International Produce Association (TIPA) wants to remind the public that residents of Mexico traveling across the border for work are considered essential. Workers will have to show the appropriate documents to prove employment and carry the recommended documentation with them at all times when crossing the border.  

The City of Pharr has been working closely with binational partners as these new changes go into effect.

“Our strong bonds with our Mexican counterparts are in full effect and we have been meeting daily as new actions and strategies are announced to combat COVID-19,” Hernandez said. “We hope to get the virus under control and will continue to review our situation at all ports of entry,” he said. 

“Both our countries know the importance of working together to limit the spread of the virus and ensure the commerce that supports our economy continues to keep flowing,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during the morning press conference in Washington, D.C.

The policy will be reviewed in 30 days and adjusted if necessary.

For more guidance and information on “essential workers” or on this new directive, please visit the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s website at https://www.cisa.gov/publication/guidance-essential-critical-infrastructure-workforce

Pharr Opens Call Center for Coronavirus Info
The City of Pharr has opened up a 311 Call Center to consolidate all calls relating to COVID-19. We are here to answer questions and concerns you may have. This line is available to our entire community to include businesses. Please dial 956-402-4311 to get in contact with us, hours of operation are Monday through Sunday 8:00 A.M. – 12:00 A.M. midnight. Se habla Español.
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