Rush hour lines at the cities’ international bridges, typically hours long, are all but gone.
Henry Craver

Eye on Texas: How COVID-19 Emptied the Texas-Mexico Border

Scenes from the closed border.

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A version of this story ran in the May / June 2020 issue.

On Saturday, March 21, the United States and Mexico partially closed their border in an attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, where life is defined by transnational movement, the decision completely altered the social and economic landscape.

A dentist sits outside of his practice in central Juárez. Although medical facilities have not been ordered to close, they’ve taken a hit, as they rely heavily on uninsured American customers.
A dentist sits outside of his practice in central Juárez. Although medical facilities have not been ordered to close, they’ve taken a hit, as they rely heavily on uninsured American customers.  Henry Craver

Although the closure does not ban American citizens and permanent residents from crossing, the usual heavy flow has diminished to a trickle.

A man asking for money on the U.S. side of the Paso del Norte International Bridge protects himself with a mask and latex gloves.
A man asking for money on the U.S. side of the Paso del Norte International Bridge protects himself with a mask and latex gloves.  Henry Craver

Many would-be crossers are staying home in compliance with social distancing recommendations. Many others are scared that the Trump administration could completely close the border without notice, leaving them stranded on the other side.

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