US and Mexican discourse regarding the shared border typically centers on efforts to keep Mexicans from traveling north.
But this weekend, as Arizona reels under the weight of the coronavirus, it is Mexico that is trying to keep Americans from heading south.
Government officials in Sonora, the Mexican state that borders Arizona, have set up additional checkpoints across the border over the holiday weekend to prevent unauthorized travel and conduct health checks on people crossing from the US.
In a statement, Sonoran Governor Claudia Pavlovich Arellano said the goal is to avoid “people [living in the US] that want to come spend the weekend and will leave us with a larger burden of Covid.”
The US and Mexico agreed to close their shared border in March to all non-essential activity. It will remain closed through at least late July.
Crossings deemed essential, for things like commerce or medical appointments, are still permitted.
But Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told reporters Friday there have been numerous cases recently of people crossing from Arizona to Sonora for non-essential reasons. That is why he agreed to deploy federal resources to help staff the new checkpoints.
“The Sonora government is guarding the border so the established rules are followed, but [the rules] are not new,” he said during his Friday morning press briefing.
Sonoran government officials have reason to be concerned about the virus spreading from Arizona. The state has witnessed a spike in coronavirus cases recently, posting record high increases in the last week, as total case numbers near 100,000. And ICU units in hospitals across the state are nearing capacity.
Sonoran health officials have reported just over 8,000 cases in the state, but that number has more than doubled in the last month as Mexico’s own epidemic continues to worsen.
In border communities across the US and Mexico, traveling back and forth across the border is common.
There is alarm in Sonora that a major US holiday, when families travel for gatherings and cookouts, could escalate the outbreak in northern Mexico.
Checkpoints will be located at ports of entry and along nearby roads and highways. Popular tourist areas will also be monitored.
“We already know which places…the Americans normally visit,” Gov. Pavlovich said.
Immigration officials, members of the Mexican National Guard and state police will deploy to staff the checkpoints, which will run through Sunday, July 5, the Mexican consulate in Tucson announced in a statement.