DHS, southern border states face economic hurdle as Biden admin stays mum on lifting travel restrictions

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and states along the southern border face an economic hurdle as President Biden stays mum on when he will reopen the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Biden administration’s silence on reopening the border, which has been closed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, comes amid recent news that Biden did not approve additional funding for DHS in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year 

DHS depends on the revenue from legal southern border crossings for funding, and communities along the border also make critical cash off people crossing over the border into the U.S.

The Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston, Texas, estimates Texas border counties will lose $4.9 billion in total GDP from Mexican tourists and shoppers being unable to cross the border, equating to 6.1% of total GDP.

Arizona is missing out on a hefty chunk of change, too. The Arizona-Mexico Commission estimated in 2019 that “visitors from Mexico contribute more than $7 million a day to Arizona’s economy by shopping in stores, eating at restaurants, staying in hotels and spending money at businesses in the state.”

This means if the 2019 numbers hold steady, the Copper State is losing out on an estimated $7 million a day in potential economic revenue.

Additionally, the California tourism board, Visit California, estimated that travelers from Mexico spent 75.8% less in 2020 than in 2019, with revenue from Mexican travelers in the state dropping from $4.256 billion to $1.028 billion.

In fact, San Ysidro, Calif. — whose economy is dependent on visitors from across the border — saw nearly a quarter of all its businesses permanently close during the pandemic. One-hundred ninety-seven out of 800 businesses in the town shuttered due to COVID-19 nonessential travel restrictions.

Several lawmakers from border states sent a bipartisan letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, calling on him to “commit to a plan” to lift travel restrictions and reopen the border.

The letter was led by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and featured several signatories from both chambers, including Blue Dog Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas.

Cuellar joined some of his fellow border community colleagues in Congress in a different letter to Biden, Mayorkas, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken asking for the border travel restrictions to be lifted. 

When asked by Fox News for comment, Cuellar’s office pointed to a Tuesday statement released after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a disaster declaration along the southern border.

Cuellar said he disagreed with the governor’s disaster declaration, saying the situation was a “complex humanitarian crisis” and that the Biden administration is “working to address the root causes of this influx – providing resources and aid – as well as strengthening Diplomatic efforts in Central America.”

Abbott announced the disaster declaration Tuesday as a response to the “growing surge” of migrants attempting to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas.

The disaster declaration authorizes the use of all available state resources in helping Lone Star State law enforcement protect Texans from “criminal activity and property damage.”

In a statement, Abbott blasted Biden’s “open-border policies” as the open door for “dangerous gangs” and other criminals, as well as “deadly drugs like fentanyl,” to illegally come into Texas.

“Meanwhile, landowners along the border are seeing their property damaged and vandalized on a daily basis while the Biden Administration does nothing to protect them,” Abbott said in the statement.

Fox News’ David Aaro contributed to this report.

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