Higgins Says Vaccine Progress & Collaboration Should Allow for US-Canada Border to Fully Reopen this Summer
Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) is continuing to push for a full reopening of the border between the U.S. and Canada by July and encouraging a partial reopening, including additional exemptions to allow families to reunite, much sooner. March 21, 2021 marks the one-year anniversary of the northern border closing to non-essential travel.
Higgins, who serves as Co-Chair of the Northern Border Caucus, said, “A great deal of positive developments have occurred over the last several months. The U.S. and Canada are collaborating in a meaningful way again. Vaccine manufacturing and distribution in the US is way ahead of schedule making it possible to help Canada without compromising distribution in the US. Now is the time to move aggressively in a bilateral way on a plan to reopen the border. It can be done with appropriate safety measures. Let’s get the border open.”
In February, Congressman Higgins wrote to President Biden challenging the Administration to reach a partial reopening of the Northern Border by Memorial day and a full reopening by July. There are new indications this week that the White House is working toward the goal of beginning to lift some travel restrictions in May.
The US has successfully expedited its distribution of the COVID vaccine. President Biden announced the US will have enough supply to vaccinate every adult by the end of May. The President also has a goal of getting the nation closer to normal by July 4.
As of Friday, March 19 Canada has administered over 3.6 million doses of the COVID vaccine with over 8% of the nation’s population receiving at least one dose while the U.S. has reached 116 million doses administered with close to 23% of the total population receiving at least one dose and 65% of adults ages 65 and up vaccinated.
This week the White House indicated plans are underway to transfer 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Canada from the U.S. The vaccine, which is still undergoing clinical trial in the U.S., has already been approved for distribution in Canada.
Higgins has led a dialogue about the US-Canada border with members of the Biden Administration, counterparts in Canadian government, families impacted by the border including members of Let Us Reunite, members of the Wilson Center Canada Task Force and his colleagues on the Congressional Northern Border Caucus. He has additional conversations scheduled with officials from both the U.S. and Canada to reiterate his goals for reopening and to determine what is feasible both short-term and long-term.
Throughout 2020 Congressman Higgins advocated for the previous administration to work on a nuanced approach to reopening the border, but no changes were made. Higgins wrote to the incoming Biden administration last December asking that President Biden make the Northern Border a priority. President Biden followed through, holding his first bilateral call and follow-up meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and delivering the US-Canada Partnership Roadmap.
Canada currently allows for exemptions for immediate and extended family of Canadian citizens to cross the border if they agree to follow a quarantine protocol. Higgins believes the US can and should implement reciprocal exemptions on the U.S. side of the border.
On March 18 the Department of Homeland Security announced the border would continue to be closed to non-essential travel through April 21. Higgins, whose district borders Southern Ontario and includes the Cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, New York, hopes this is the last blanket shutdown issued.