HARLINGEN, Texas (Border Report) — The U.S. State Department has downgraded its overall travel advisory warning for Mexico, even though travel restrictions still remain on the Southwest border due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forbids all travel except for essential workers.

The travel advisory for Mexico was lowered from the highest rating of 4 (Do Not Travel) to 3 (Reconsider Travel) by the State Department earlier this month. However, the agency still warns against traveling to the northern border state of Tamaulipas, across the Rio Grande from South Texas, “due to crime and kidnapping,” according to the agency’s online country locator advisory. Other states in Mexico’s interior that Americans are advised not to travel to due to “crime” include Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, and Sinaloa.

The advisory urges residents to “reconsider travel” to these northern Mexican states:

  • Chihuahua, which includes the city of Juarez, on the border with El Paso, Texas
  • Nuevo Leon, which borders Laredo, Texas
  • Sonora, which borders Arizona

Despite the lowered advisory, however, land border travel is still restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Travel restrictions were implemented by the Department of Homeland Security on March 20 and have been extended through at least Oct. 21.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for Mexico due to COVID-19,” the advisory states. “Mexico has lifted stay at home orders in some areas and resumed some transportation and business operations.” Here is a breakdown of CDC guidelines relating to travel to Mexico.

In response to the downgraded travel advisory, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat who represents South Texas, praised the new grade, but criticized the Trump administration for continuing to implement a border travel ban on land ports of entry, but not on airports or marine ports.

“The State Department’s decision is an important first step to helping our community resume economic activity during this pandemic. However, the continuation of the non-essential travel restrictions should be reevaluated. I hope DHS looks at the State’s Department’s travel advisory when planning their next moves,” Cuellar said.

Cuellar has been outspoken regarding the economic losses that border communities in particular have suffered since the travel ban was issued. He says $360 billion has been lost to date nationwide, and he has proposed “enhanced screening” measures to DHS officials to allow the borders to reopen but to still prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

“Businesses and the tourism industry along the U.S.-Mexico border have faced dire economic circumstances due to the non-essential travel restrictions,” Cuellar said. ‘The continual 30-day extensions of the travel restrictions prolongs economic devastation in our communities.”