Says status quo with no strategy is no longer an option
Northern border caucus co-chair and Western New York Congressman Brian Higgins is calling on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to immediately advance concrete proposals for reopening the border between the U.S. and Canada. The latest push comes just one week before the existing order banning nonessential travel between the two countries is set to expire (on April 21).
In a letter to Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Higgins requested a meeting to discuss the challenges Western New Yorkers are facing. He called for immediate action: “I write you to advocate that the Department immediately advance concrete proposals for a phased re-opening of the Northern Border to our Canadian partners, and again call on the Department to immediately implement appropriate unilateral measures toward the normalization of the border, including promulgating a family reunification policy at least as generous at the policy implemented by the Government of Canada many months ago.”
Higgins is pressing for a partial reopening of the border by May and a full reopening by July. In recent weeks, he has spoken to members of the Biden administration about the border and government counterparts in Canada, releasing a joint statement with Canadian Member of Parliament Wayne Easter supporting bilateral coordination on the shared border.
The congressman said U.S. and Canadian citizens have done their part to comply with necessary safety measures, but the existing situation can’t go on indefinitely. Higgins said that, with precautions, family reunification measures could be implemented immediately.
He wrote, “Over a year ago, the United States and Canada announced that all non-essential travel between our two countries would be restricted to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Exceptions were made in limited cases and the people of Western New York and Southern Ontario accepted these as necessary measures to take in the face of the worst public health crisis of the past century. During this time, many of my constituents sacrificed – wondering when they’d be able to see their families and loved ones again, manage their properties, and tend to some of their business interests in Canada. Their livelihoods and personal lives have been deeply affected.”
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce also launched an initiative this week to rebuild the binational relationship. The campaign lists a plan to reopen the border as a priority: “As vaccination rates increase, businesses need a plan from government on how the border will reopen that is underpinned by clear metrics and dates.”
Land ports of entry between the U.S. and Canada first closed to nonessential travel in March 2020 due to the pandemic.