The coronavirus pandemic has caused mounting tensions at the U.S.-Mexico border for months, and now the situation is worse than ever. Some Mexico border towns are blocking Americans on the Texas side from coming over due to COVID-19 fears. "U.S. citizens have been able to go into Mexico in the border towns and see doctors, buy prescriptions, do shopping...now (Mexican towns) want to cut that off," says Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr., who chairs the Texas Border Coalition.
Of course, the same thing is happening across the border. "Right now, on the U.S. side they're not allowing Mexican nationals to cross," says Treviño. "So, it's a double edged sword and it continues to cut deeper."
The U.S. has banned all cross-border traffic except for "essential trade and travel" for months, with the order currently set to expire July 21. That order has severely harmed Texas border businesses, which rely heavily on Mexicans who cross over for shopping and business. "Here on the border, we've been hit a lot stronger, a lot worse than perhaps the rest of the state and other parts of the country, because we rely on our trade with Mexico," says Judge Treviño.
Economic hardship is not the only effect of the pandemic on the Rio Grande Valley. The recent surge in cases has overwhelmed the region's healthcare system. "We need field care hospitals here, we need an alternate care site," says Judge Treviño. "We don't have the resources that Harris County or Houston or Dallas or San Antonio have, but we know we're all going through the same problems."