The small village of Nuevo Progreso lies just on the other side of the Texas/Mexican border. Known for its safe streets and great bargains on everything from alcohol to medications to souvenirs, over the past few decades Nuevo Progreso has built an economy based largely on Texans who like to winter in Mexico. In the summer, they depend on casual tourists who cross the border to shop.

However, after the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative went into effect on June, 2009, the ability to casually pop over to the Mexican side of the border became a thing of the past for US residents without passports. The new law requires that citizens show US passports or passport cards to get back into the country. Previously, all you had to have was your driver’s license and a birth certificate.

Since the rules went into effect, tourism in Nuevo Progreso has plummeted, according to this article in the Brownsville Herald.   According to Nuevo Progreso civic leaders, business is down 60 percent since the winter. For many in town, this is the slowest slow season they can remember.

For example, the article quotes Smiriam Hernandez, a local shop owner, who said that her 30-year-old establishment has never before lost so much money.  She told the Brownsville Herald that “The problem is the passport.”

However, there is hope: traffic across the border is slowly increasing, and according to Nuevo Progreso’s chamber treasurer, Dr. Maribel Martinez, more Americans living near the border are beginning to understand the necessity of having passports.  She told the Herald:  “People said they had problems with the cost, or gathering their documents. But it seems to be getting better and people are more conscientious now. Before, people didn’t want to accept it.”

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