As the U.S. dropped its COVID-19 travel restrictions for the first time in 20 months, tearful reunions took place at JFK airport and U.S. land borders on Monday on Nov. 8.
Parents held their newborn children and delighted in returning home after being stranded in another country. Couples who had been apart for a long time kissed, while grandparents embraced grandchildren who had doubled in age.
“I think a lot of people have been waiting for this day,” said Eileen Bigelow, area port director for Vermont for Customs and Border Protection. “They look at it as a light at the end of the tunnel for some return of normalcy.”
Applause, balloons, and cookies greeted travelers arriving at JFK airport. Then, at the arrival hall, where relatives embraced each other—and some met for the first time—tears poured.
“There are no words,” Bhavna Patel said after meeting her one-year-old grandson Kai following months of FaceTime calls.
“How can you describe this feeling?”
Patel and her daughter Bindiya were among the hundreds who boarded the inaugural British Airways flight to New York, which took off from London’s Heathrow airport earlier Monday.
During her 10-day visit, she added that all she wanted to do was “sit and look” at her grandchild.
“I have other relatives in New York, but I said, ‘these 10 days are just for him,'” she said.
Flights also came from Frankfurt and Paris, with passengers boarding flights expressing their desire to see family and friends.
Gaye Camara, a Frenchwoman, last saw her husband in January 2020 in New York, unaware that it would be another 21 months before they could hold each other again.
“I’m going to jump into his arms, kiss him, touch him,” said Camara, 40, as she wheeled her luggage through Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, where the humming crowds resembled those before the pandemic, except for the face masks.
River Robinson’s American partner was unable to attend the birth of their son in Canada 17 months ago. So she was thrilled to learn of the United States’ reopening and intended to take the child there for Thanksgiving.
It’s “crazy to think he has a whole other side of the family he hasn’t even met yet,” said Robinson, who lives in St. Thomas, Ontario.
“He’s a dad to two American kids,” she said. “He should have had the right to come into this country the entire 19 months.”
Thousands of migrants have arrived in places around Mexico’s border with the United States, seeking to benefit from the new restrictions.
Despite mile-long lines at land borders ahead of the removal of the ban, relieved travelers reported the lines went rapidly despite the additional immunization checks required for admission.
For the first time since Feb. 2020, Octavio Alvarez, 43, claimed it took him less than 15 minutes to enter the U.S. from Mexico.
A new caravan of thousands of mostly Central American migrants has crossed from Chiapas to Oaxaca state in southern Mexico, with the ultimate goal of crossing the border and being allowed into the United States.
As far as the eye could see, lines of automobiles formed on the U.S.–Mexico border before morning. As a result, the Ciudad Juarez authorities were forced to establish a specific system to control the massive influx of traffic, reported NYPost.
Portable toilets were installed on the three bridges that pass into the United States, “as waiting times of up to four hours are estimated,” according to Cesar Alberto Tapia, the local director of traffic safety.
Meanwhile, similar scenes could be seen in the north, with seemingly unending lines of passenger cars and motorhomes forming on the Rainbow Bridge, which connects Niagara Falls, Ontario, and New York.