San Diego businesses have been impacted by the pandemic, and the border travel restrictions put in place by the federal government in March 2020.
The restrictions were recently extended through August 21, barring non-essential travel.
For those restaurants and shops who have managed to survive, they say they are facing yet another obstacle. This one has to do with the long wait times their employees are facing at U.S. ports of entry.
Inside Cocina 35 it would be hard to tell that the popular chilaquiles restaurant is struggling with the current labor shortage and border travel restrictions.
Owner Paulina Chaidez said 80% of her employees at her Otay Mesa restaurant live in Tijuana and cross the border daily to get to work. But, following the border travel restrictions, Chaidez said her employees are grappling with getting to work on time.
“About September, October we started noticing that everybody was late and didn’t know why until we spoke with CBP and they told us they had limited amount of employees at the border,” said Chaidez. “So our employees were waiting about 4 to 5 hours at the border crossing and we couldn’t do anything about it, we needed them here.”
Some of the staff at Cocina 35 say it can take them 4 to 5 hours to cross the border, something they used to be able to do in half that time.
As businesses across the country deal with the national labor shortage, Chaidez said she’s being hit on all sides. She’s had to close both her restaurant locations down on Wednesdays to give her staff time off. Then, in response to the delayed border travel, she started opening up a little later to help ensure her employees could cross the border and make it to work on time.
“They can be at the border for 5 hours, sleep at the border, and cross at 4 or 5 in the morning and then sleep in the parking lot to be here at 7 and not be late. It’s crazy,” said Chaidez.
Wait times for the border show higher than average wait times, according to CBP’s data online.
“I just want to have everything open again like everyone else,” said Chaidez.
Chaidez hopes that fully reopening the border will mean more vehicle lanes and pedestrian crossings will be available.
NBC 7 reached out to CBP for further comment as to what is causing the delay and we have not yet heard back.