The San Ysidro border crossing at night. Photo by Khari Johnson

Americans who regularly cross the border from Mexico reported long wait times to re-enter the United States on Monday after U.S. officials imposed new COVID-19-related restrictions on cross-border travel by citizens and permanent residents.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection closed lanes at San Ysidro and other ports of entry and began conducting more secondary checks to limit non-essential travel and slow the spread of the coronavirus.

According to CBP data, wait times at some border crossings have since doubled or tripled. Many crossing points now have only one or two lanes of traffic open. On Monday, border crossers reported wait times of five to six hours.

Jess Herr, 30, a U.S. citizen who lives in Tijuana and works at a restaurant in San Diego, said she usually wakes up at 4 a.m. and crosses by car in about an hour to make her shift. When she saw the long line of cars on Monday, she decided to cross by foot, although she still had to wait five hours to cross the border.

The San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce called the new restrictions “arbitrary and nationalist” and noted that the action came as San Diego County was taken off the state’s watch list.

“Punitive actions against those deemed non-essential is causing job loss and management barriers, as CBP has no idea when essential workers need to cross the border,” the chamber said, adding that the restrictions have already cost 1,000 local jobs.

“Stop using arbitrary border restrictions that cause more harm than good and ruin lives,” the chamber said.

Before coronavirus restrictions at the border began in March, over 950,000 people entered the United States from Mexico on foot or in cars on a typical day, including about 100,000 at San Ysidro.

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