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With US-Canada border restrictions extended, Higgins asks governments to examine essential travel allowances

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Fri, May 22nd 2020 11:30 am

Congressman encourages planning for a reopening that ‘protects public health while reinvigorating commerce’

Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, who serves as co-chair of the House of Representatives’ Northern Border Caucus, is asking U.S. and Canada leaders to reexamine the scope of those provided essential travel status as communities on each side of the border begin reopening measures. 

On March 24, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) imposed travel restrictions at land ports of entry between the U.S. and Canada, limiting crossings to “essential travel” due to the ongoing pandemic. A second notice extended travel restrictions through May 20. Earlier this week, the U.S. and Canada agreed to extend northern border restrictions through 11:59 p.m. June 22.

Under the current order, “essential travel” includes:

  • U.S. citizens returning to the U.S.
  • 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

In a letter to the U.S. acting secretary of homeland security and Canadian minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, Higgins asks leaders to consider expanding essential travel allowances:

“I write today to advocate that in the course of this extension, the definition of essential travel be expanded specifically to include:

“1) travel safely to visit family,

“2) travel to manage individuals’ legitimate business interests, and

“3) travel to inspect, secure and/or manage personal property.”

Higgins continues, “This approach should not be ‘one size fits all’ and should maximize safety to the public health. We should recognize, though, that the restrictive border is an anomaly, since many residents in both New York and Ontario use the border on a daily basis for basic tasks central to their livelihood.”

Higgins commended binational efforts to protect citizens and encouraged continued, thoughtful coordination to plan for further modifications to border restrictions: “Border communities, like mine, value the economic and cultural impacts of sharing an international border, however, we understood the necessity of implementing reasonable travel restrictions amid a global pandemic. Cooperation and trust among governments at all levels is vital, including those between neighboring countries. It is my hope that our governments, appreciating the meaningful connections my constituents have with Southern Ontario, will incorporate these considerations under further modifications to previously announced cross-border travel restrictions.”

Higgins’ Western New York district, which encompasses the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, borders Southern Ontario and includes three automobile and two rail crossings between the U.S. and Canada.

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