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COVID-19 closes border, Valley family willing to risk a trip to Mexico to get medicine

Posted at 5:11 PM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-23 20:56:27-04

A Valley family says there is too much uncertainty around the closure of the border to non-essential travel as a measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Despite the new restrictions, the Sanchez family says they’re willing to risk their re-entry to the U.S. and make the trip to Mexico to save their son.

“We don’t have a prescription to verify that our trip is essential. We fear not having some type of proof will deny us the entry back to the U.S,” said Miguel Sanchez.

Before the announcement, the Sanchez family would go every two weeks to Mexico to obtain an herbal medicine not available in the U.S.

“It’s an alternative medicine, natural medicine. The new regulations seem to favor conventional medicine only,” said Sanchez.

For Sanchez, making the trip to Mexico is a matter of life and death. “Brayan was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, U.S doctors say is terminal and there’s nothing they could do for him.”

Sanchez says the announcement of the closure of the U.S- Mexico border means no access to an alternative medicine treatment that he believes is keeping his son, Brayan alive. He says he has no choice, but to make the trip this week.

“I’m not doing this because I want to, I’m doing it because I need to. My son’s life depends on that treatment,” said Sanchez.

But what exactly does the Department of Homeland Security consider essential traveling?

According to the Department of Homeland Security order, “essential travel” includes, but is not limited to:

  • U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States
  • Individuals traveling for medical purposes (e.g., to receive medical treatment in the United States)
  • Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions
  • Individuals traveling to work in the United States
  • Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes
  • Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade
  • Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the spouses and children of members of the U.S.
  • Armed Forces, returning to the United States; and Individuals engaged in military-related travel or operations

But for Francisco Lara-Valencia, an Associate Professor of the School of Transborder Studies at ASU, the idea of essential versus non-essential travel is problematic.

“What’s essential and what’s not? it depends on who you ask, it depends on the situation of every person,” said Lara-Valencia.

Professor Lara-Valencia resides in Nogales Arizona, as a local, he says he fears for people like the Sanchez family who rely on medicine from Mexico, but also for the ripple effect it can have on the economy.

“Crossing the border to shop is essential, it’s really important because the economies and markets are very interdependent and complementary,” said Lara-Valencia.

Shoppers with a tourist visa are not considered essential under the new regulations.

As a professor, he says he worries about accountability and what this new regulation really means for people on a case by case basis.

“We need to keep an eye on the way people on the border port of entry, Customs and Border Protection people, how they’re going to interpret that concept of essential travel,” said Lara-Valencia.

The new restrictions will remain in effect until April 20, 2020. If you would like to learn more about what is considered essential and non-essential under the new government regulations click here.