North Country lawmaker again calls for reopening Canadian border

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Wellesley Island Port of Entry (photo: Customs and Border Protection)

WASHINGTON (WWTI) — Local lawmakers are pushing for restrictions on non-essential travel to be fully lifted across the Northern Border.

On Wednesday, New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and Montana Senator Steve Daines—both Republicans—called on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California—both Democrats—to take action to reopen the Northern Border. Specifically, they want Congressional leadership to pass their bill, the Restoring Northern Travel Act.

Restrictions on non-essential travel into the U.S. were extended for the 17th time on August 21. These restrictions were first introduced at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Non-essential travel was opened to American travelers who meet certain criteria, like vaccinations and quarantines, on August 9.

In addressing the closure, Stefanik criticized Pres. Joe Biden.

“The Biden Administration continues to fail New Yorkers with their misguided decision to keep the northern border closed while Canada is once again welcoming Americans travelers,” Stefanik said in a press release. “Small businesses and families in communities along the border should not have to suffer another month due to this administration’s incompetence and inability to even establish a plan to safely restore cross-border travel.”

Stefanik then took aim at the senior senator from New York: “Schumer knows how devastating this prolonged closure has been for our region, and I’m calling on him to fulfill his commitment to the North Country and bring this legislation to reopen the northern border up for a vote.”

According to Stefanik, the Restoring Northern Border Travel Act would require the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to expand the categories of permitted travel across the border between the U.S. and Canada. These categories would include individuals traveling to visit family members or property in the United States, attend business meetings or site visits or access airports.

Additionally, the bill would require the DHS to submit to Congress and begin implementing a plan to fully restore non-essential travel into the U.S. at the northern border. The bill was first introduced by Rep. Stefanik and Sen. Daines on June 24.

The full text of the letter addressed to Sen. Schumer and Speaker Pelosi is included below:

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer,

We write to urge immediate action on our bicameral legislation, the Restoring Northern Border Travel Act, to reopen the U.S. – Canada border for non-essential travel and revitalize American jobs and tourism. It is past time for Congress to act and bring long-overdue relief to families and businesses in northern border communities, who have suffered nearly 18 months of hardship and uncertainty due to the travel restrictions.

The closure of the northern border was implemented as a temporary measure to limit the spread of COVID-19 in March 2020, yet the restrictions have been extended 17 times without any adjustments or relief for family members or homeowners despite the immense progress we have made in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. The reduction in cross-border traffic has had a significant impact on local economies along the northern border, including agriculture, small businesses, and tourism. These industries are the lifeblood of many northern border communities from New York to Montana that continue to inordinately feel the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To the frustration of many, including the Democrats and Republicans alike who represent communities along the northern border, the Biden Administration recently extended the restrictions on non-essential travel into the U.S. through September 21st. While the Canadian government opened its border to fully vaccinated American travelers on August 9th in clear recognition of the close bilateral partnership our nations share, the Biden Administration failed to reciprocate these measures and delayed reopening the border for at least another month. To make matters worse, the Biden Administration has provided zero transparency on the metrics and decision-making process guiding these continued restrictions and still has not established any plan on how cross-border travel will eventually be restored.

The Biden Administration’s unilateral decision to extend the border closure continues to unfairly punish American businesses and ignores the success of the vaccine rollout in both countries. We implore you to immediately consider our legislation to end more than 500 days of economic hardship on our northern border communities.

We appreciate your attention to this urgent matter and look forward to working with you to get this much-needed bill enacted. 

Sincerely,

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, R-NY, Senator Steve Daines R-MT

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