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Friday, September 24th, 2021

Northern Border Caucus presses US, Canadian governments for phased reopening of border

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House members of the Northern Border Caucus are pushing for a phased reopening of that United States-Canadian border, which has been shut down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In all, 29 Congress members, led by caucus co-chairs Brian Higgins (D-NY) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY), called for the development of guidance to get things moving again. In a letter to both the Acting Secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the members urged an end to the uncertainty that has stressed 5,525 miles of the U.S.-Canadian border. Since its closure, 30-day extensions have pushed the shutdown further, but plans for how those restrictions would be modified have not been developed.

“We are asking that the United States and Canada immediately craft a comprehensive framework for phased reopening of the border based on objective metrics and accounting for the varied circumstances across border regions,” the members wrote. “Additionally, we request consideration of any interim measures that may be appropriate to bilaterally ease restrictions on family members and property owners – including those with property on U.S. soil accessible only through cross-border transit – in order to restore the social bond that unites our two nations.”

Before the pandemic, roughly 400,000 people and more than $1.6 billion in goods crossed the U.S.-Canadian border daily. It includes more than 120 ports of entry. Such entry has been locked down since March 24, however, when DHS imposed travel restrictions due to the pandemic. Only those participating in essential travel have been allowed through since, as a total of four binational agreements extended travel restrictions through July 21.

Essential travel includes things like returning U.S. citizens, medical purposes, work, emergency response, military purposes, or cargo transport.

“States and Provinces have created frameworks for reopening that rely on monitoring public health data, the expertise of health officials, and other defined criteria to inform government decisions on how to proceed with each phase of a reopen,” the members wrote. “This process alleviates uncertainty and allows residents to understand the decision-making and anticipate next steps. Continuing to extend border restrictions at 30-day intervals is untenable for the communities that have been separated from family and unable to tend to their property for over three months.”