March 21 marked one-year anniversary of northern border shutdown
Congressman Brian Higgins 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. Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of the northern border closing to nonessential 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 U.S. is way ahead of schedule making it possible to help Canada without compromising distribution in the U.S. 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, Higgins wrote to President Joe 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 U.S. has successfully expedited its distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Biden announced the U.S. 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, Canada has administered over 3.6 million doses of the vaccine with more than 8% of the nation’s population receiving at least one dose. 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.
The White House recently 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 been approved for distribution in Canada.
Higgins has led a dialogue about the U.S.-Canada border with members of the 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, 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 Biden administration last December asking the president to make the northern border a priority. Biden followed through, holding his first bilateral call and follow-up meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and delivering the “U.S.-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 said the U.S. can and should implement reciprocal exemptions on the this side of the border.
On March 18, the Department of Homeland Security announced the border would continue to be closed to nonessential travel through April 21. Higgins, whose district borders Southern Ontario and includes the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, said he hopes this is the last blanket shutdown issued.