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Higgins: As Canada adjusts border policy to expand family reunification measures, time for US to do same

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Fri, Oct 9th 2020 01:05 pm

Says families continue to be torn apart as Canadians prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving

This week, the Canadian government expanded exemptions to current U.S.-Canada border restrictions allowing for additional family reunification measures. Now, Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, is calling on the U.S. government to do the same.

In a letter to President Trump, Higgins, who serves as co-chair of the northern border caucus, writes, “I ask you to implement carefully calibrated exemptions to these restrictions – based on reasonable public health metrics – for property owners and those traveling to reunite with family across the border. The Canadian government has relaxed restrictions for travel of family members of Canadian citizens on two separate occasions already. … The United States, however, has yet to adopt similar exemptions for land border crossings.”

The border between the U.S. and Canada first closed due to the pandemic on March 24 and has been extended multiple times. The first extension was through May 20, then June 22, July 21, Aug. 21 and Sept. 21, with the current order set to expire Oct. 21.

Under the current U.S. order, border crossings into the U.S. are only allowed for:

•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

However, the Canadian government previously added an exemption to allow for immediate family members of Canadian citizens to enter Canada to reunite with family if they follow a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Immediate family is defined as a spouse or common-law partner, depended child, dependent child of a dependent child, parent or step-parent, or guardian.

On Oct. 8, the Canadian government released details of further exemptions to allow for the reunification of extended family members. Those considered to be an extended family member include: those in an exclusive dating relationship for at least one year, an adult child, a grandchild, a sibling, half-sibling or step-sibling, and a grandparent.

Prior to the pandemic, Western New Yorkers and Southern Ontarians shared a close relationship with frequent travel across the border to shop, dine out, visit with family and friends, vacation, attend sporting events and take in cultural programs. Higgins recognized the travel ban, which has now been in place for nearly seven months. He said it has been especially long and difficult for families, noting some will be kept apart as Canada prepares to celebrate its Thanksgiving holiday on Monday, Oct. 12.

Higgins added in his letter to the president, “Our constituents along the northern border in New York, in those communities that have a low rate of infection and a low number of cases, have been suffering from this seemingly endless ban on their ability to engage in legitimate cross-border travel according to common sense safety metrics. Given the enormity of the northern border and the diversity of northern border regions, I believe that a more nuanced approach, taking regional COVID-19 transmission risks into account, is more appropriate than a uniform border-wide policy.”

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