Northern Border Caucus Co-Chairs Higgins & Stefanik Lead Bipartisan Push for U.S. & Canada to Develop Framework for Phased Reopening of the Border
As the nation heads into what would typically be a busy weekend for cross-border travel, Congressmmembers Brian Higgins (D-NY-26) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21), Co-Chairs of the Northern Border Caucus, are leading a push for the United States and Canada to develop guidance that prepares for reopening while the border is under its current shutdown.
Joining Higgins and Stefanik on the letter to the Acting Secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness are Congressmembers Joseph Morelle (D-NY-25), Peter Welch D-VT), Anthony Brindisi (D-NY-22), Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1), Pete Stauber (R-MN-8), Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12), Paul Mitchell (R-MI-10), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-5), Dan Newhouse (R-WA-4), Derek Kilmer (D-WA-6), Tom Reed (R-NY-23), Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), David Joyce (R-OH-14), Jack Bergman (R-MI-1), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH-2), Robert Latta (R-OH-5), Greg Gianforte R-MT), John Katko (R-NY-24), Tom Emmer (R-MN-6), Kathleen Rice (D-NY-4), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9), Collin Peterson (D-MN-7), Daniel Kildee (D-MI-5), William Keating (D-MA-5), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI-8), Jared Golden (D-ME-2) and Russ Fulcher (R-ID-1).
The Members write, “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. 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.”
On March 24 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) first imposed travel restrictions at Land Ports of Entry between the United States and Canada, limiting crossings to “essential travel” due to the ongoing pandemic. A second notice extended travel restrictions through May 20. A third agreement extended northern border restrictions through June 22, 2020. A forth binational agreement extended the border closure through July 21.
Under the current order, “essential travel” includes:
- US citizens returning to the US
- Individuals traveling for medical purposes
- Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions or work
- Individuals traveling for emergency or government response
- Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade (e.g. cargo drivers)
- Members of the military
The Members point out that the uncertainty that comes with repeated temporary border restrictions creates stress for individuals and the economy. “The continual 30-day extensions without a plan for how restrictions will be modified prolongs uncertainty for both communities and creates unnecessary tension as we approach each new expiration. 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. 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.”
The United States and Canada share 5,525 miles of border, the longest land boundary between two countries in the world. When open, more than 400,000 people and over $1.6 billion in goods cross the Northern Border daily through over 120 Ports of Entry.