U.S. to open Canada, Mexico borders

U.S. Customs officers stand beside a sign saying that the U.S. border is closed at the U.S./Canada border in Lansdowne, Ontario, on March 22, 2020. Lars Hagberg/AFP via Getty Images/TNS

WASHINGTON — For at least another month, Canadians will largely be barred from entering the United States at any land crossing across the northern border.

President Joseph R. Biden’s administration announced Monday another month-long extension to the crossing restrictions in place at all land crossings for the northern and southern borders, which prevents any non-essential travelers from entering the U.S. via land.

The extension is set to last until Oct. 21, although for the last 19 times the month-long extensions have neared their end date, an extension has been announced days beforehand.

This comes as the Biden administration announces a plan to relax international travel restrictions for those flying into the country from much of Asia, Europe or other countries placed under a travel restriction over a year ago as their COVID-19 infection rates rose, according to the Associated Press.

Federal representatives up and down the northern border criticized the decision, including both co-chairs of the Northern Border Caucus. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, blasted the decision in a statement quickly after the move was announced.

“On the same day the Biden administration announced it will start to ease foreign travel restrictions with several countries including China and Iran, President Biden still refuses to even establish a clear path for reopening the northern border,” she said. “It’s past time for the administration to do its job, so members of the north country can be reunited with families, tourism can resume and small businesses no longer have to suffer from this administration’s failure.”

She called for the passage of the Restoring Northern Border Travel Act, a bill she introduced in June alongside Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont.

That bill would order the Department of Homeland Security to change what qualifies as essential travel for U.S.-Canada border crossings by land or air to include family visits, traveling to owned property across the border and attending business meetings. It would also require DHS to implement a plan to restore non-essential travel.

The Democratic co-chair of the Northern Border Caucus, Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, was less fiery in his criticism of the extended crossing restrictions, calling it “unnecessary and unexplained.”

“It is welcome news that the White House is making progress on reciprocating international public health measures to protect air travelers, yet it is inexplicable that no announcement on easing travel restrictions at land ports of entry is being made today, since the livelihoods of communities across the northern border depend on cross-border commerce,” he said.

Rep. Higgins pointed to the fact that the Canadians reopened their land crossings to vaccinated Americans on Aug. 9 as proof it can, and should, be done on the U.S. side as well. Vaccinated American nationals can enter Canada for travel, leisure and other non-essential reasons if they can prove they are vaccinated, have tested negative for COVID-19 recently and have a quarantine plan in case they are infected while in Canada.

“Vaccines were the turning point to make reopening the border possible,” Rep. Higgins said. “This was substantial progress in our fight to reconnect with our Canadian neighbors, but we need action on the U.S. side. Canada opened its land crossings successfully and the United States should be acting today to do the same.”

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I write about north country politics, Jefferson County and the northern shoreline towns of Lyme, Cape Vincent, Clayton and Alexandria Bay

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