(AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)
PHOENIX — As the United States and Mexico work to stop COVID-19’s spread, non-essential travel remains prohibited across their shared border.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection surveyed 150,000 travelers along the southwest border and CBP Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Friday that more Americans are traveling for non-essential reasons.
“This is a balance about addressing the real public health crisis that we’re in, but also to look at this from a practical standpoint of the economic impact that (the coronavirus) is having,” Morgan said.
His agency looking for ways to stop non-essential travel, like for vacations and family visits, and instead boost safety for essential commercial travel to keep both countries’ economies going.
“We’re going to continue to work with the local communities, set some criteria up, and go forward with a tailored risk approach that really is tailored for each community along the southwest border,” Morgan said.
During the pandemic’s height, illegal border crossings and drug seizures dropped, but now even the traffickers adjusted their ways for coronavirus.
“Our seizures of fentanyl from this time last year are up 55%,” Morgan reported. “Our seizures of methamphetamine are up 24%.”
Morgan blames the spike on Americans self-medicating their personal issues during the pandemic.
“Those two stats should be shocking to the American public,” Morgan said. “We must have every tool and resource to stop things from crossing the border and coming into the country that could harm us.”
That’s part of the reason COVID-19 hasn’t stopped southwest border wall construction.
“We actually increased production during this time,” Morgan said. “We’re actually up to over 10 miles per week. Right now, we’ve got 360 miles of wall systems that have been built.”
Morgan said they expect to have 450 miles of new border wall completed by the end of the year.
For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.