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Sonora prepares Paisanos program for northbound travelers

Every year Mexican authorities launch a program to assist millions of Mexicans living abroad as they travel home for the winter holidays.

The annual Paisanos program is usually aimed at southbound visitors. But as travel restrictions are lifted at the U.S.-Mexico border Monday, Sonoran Security Secretary María Dolores del Río says this year officials expect traffic to flow the opposite direction.

"You have to remember that for (U.S. citizens) access was never limited, so we're likely to see a great mobilization from Mexico to the United States," she said

While the United States strictly enforced binational travel restrictions at the border implemented in March 2020, Mexico has implemented few restrictions for southbound crossers. That's meant U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents have been largely been free to continue crossing the border, while Mexican nationals have been the most heavily impacted by the rules.

Now, after 19 months of restrictions, large numbers of Mexican travelers from across Sonora and around the country are expected to drive north in the coming weeks and months.

The Paisanos program will start Friday and end on Jan. 6. Del Río says police, paramedics and national guard troops will be stationed on highways to assist drivers and attend to accidents and emergencies.

Kendal Blust was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2018 to 2023.