In Call With Secretary of Homeland Security, Rep. Higgins Pushes for U.S. Action to Allow Family Reunification at Northern Border
Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26), who serves as Co-Chair of the Congressional Northern Border Caucus, spoke with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to discuss the existing order closing the U.S. – Canada border to non-essential travel. In the call, Congressman Higgins made an urgent appeal to expand the definition of essential traveler to allow for families to reunite.
Higgins said, “We have been dealing with coronavirus, first SARS, then MERS, now COVID-19, for 18 years now and we could see variants for years to come. People living on either side of the U.S. – Canada border have already lost a year of time with their loved ones and they should not have to wait one more day. The U.S. can and should take immediate action to allow family members to be together again.”
The border between the U.S. and Canada first closed to non-essential travel in March 2020 due to the pandemic and the existing order was recently extended through May 21, 2021.
The Canadian government added an exemption to allow for immediate family members of Canadian citizens to enter Canada to reunite with family and later expanded the exemption to allow for extended family members to cross. Under the policy immediate family is defined as a spouse or common-law partner, dependent child, dependent child of a dependent child, parent or step-parent, or guardian. Extended family members include those in an exclusive dating relationship for at least 1 year, and adult child, a grandchild, a sibling, half-sibling, or step-sibling, and a grandparent. The U.S. does not allow for the same family unification measures.
Higgins recently wrote to Secretary Mayorkas requesting a conversation about the northern border. Secretary Mayorkas understood Higgins’ concerns and said he would take the Congressman’s recommendations to the task force assigned to develop a reopening plan.
For months Congressman Higgins has been pushing for a plan to safely reopen the border. President Biden issued an executive order in January directing departments to develop a plan. Higgins would like the two nations to work collaboratively toward the goal of a full, safe reopening of the U.S. – Canada border by July.