EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – International Bridges remain closed to non-essential travel but individuals can still cross for educational purposes, according to U.S. Customs Border Protection.
The closure is set to expire sometime this month but could be extended into August.
Lydia Patterson Institute, an El Paso private school, says 70 percent of their students will start coming across the border every day as the school is returning to in-person learning.
School officials tell KTSM 9 News that half of the students are U.S. citizens and the other half are on student visas. The school saw a drop in enrollment during the pandemic.
“We went online immediately at the start of the pandemic so for second semester some of the students did not re-register but were hoping they will all return,” said Dr. Socorro De Anda the President of Lydia Patterson.
The president of the school says they have not had problems with students being able to cross the international bridges with their student visas but many times their parents cannot.
“Our problem is the parents being able to come across to register the students so most are registering online. And, those that do have to come, we are giving them a letter so that they can present it to immigration so that they will be allowed to cross,” said De Anda.
However, De Anda says sometimes the parents have trouble crossing with the school letter.
“When they get to the border, sometimes, for some unknown reason, they are not allowed to come across. So, they have to call us and we have to call and talk to immigration and then after that, they are able to cross,” said De Anda.
While more children 12 years and older in El Paso have been vaccinated, that’s not the case in Ciudad Juarez.
De Anda says the schools plan to offer vaccines for all students as many in Ciudad Juárez have not yet had the opportunity.
“We are worried about those who are not U.S. Citizens that they may not have gotten vaccinated in Juárez so we are going to make every effort to make sure all of our students are vaccinated,” said De Anda.
One Student Miguel Rodriguez is about to start his senior year at Lydia Patterson. Working at the school over the summer. Rodriguez says he crosses the bridge every day to come but that he has to cross alone as his mother is not allowed to come as the bridges remain restricted to essential travel only not permitting Mexican nationals to cross.
“If she wants my report from my classes and how I’m doing she cannot cross the line because she is Mexican and of course right now she cannot cross the line,” said Miguel Rodriguez a Senior at Lydia Patterson.
Saying he’s had to learn how to do a lot of things on his own. Once school starts he will have to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to make it to the bridge, cross, and walk to school.
Over the past year, Lydia Patterson was doing virtual learning but the President of the school says the plan is to have all students return for in-person learning.
“I struggle a little bit with anxiety so like at the beginning it was a little bit hard for me to cross the bridge since I get a little bit anxious but you know it’s getting better to talk to my friends again and to socialize,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez is hopeful that the bridges will open so that his mom can cross to see him perform in the school band this year.
Juarez has opened multiple mass vaccination sites and Juarez Health Officials say they expect to administer 500,000 vaccinations by the end of the week.
The border restrictions in place due to COVID-19 concerns, Mexico Officials hoping to reach herd immunity and allow for the reopening of the border.