Higgins Continues Push for Reciprocal Reunification Measures for Separated Families; Asks Biden to Act on Family Exemptions by Next Week
With families now separated for over 450 days due to restrictions imposed at the U.S.-Canada border, Congressman Brian Higgins is insisting families shouldn’t have to wait one day longer to be together again. Higgins, who serves as co-chair of the Canada-U.S. interparliamentary group and the northern border caucus, said he wants the U.S. government to take immediate action to reciprocate family reunification measures already allowed by the Canadian government.
In a letter to President Joe Biden, Higgins wrote, “For over sixteen months, families and loved ones in the United States and Canada have endured a long and painful separation in response to the public health crisis. Now that the crisis has subsided, I write you asking the United States to expand the definition of essential travel between our two countries and immediately accommodate a reciprocal family reunification policy.”
The U.S.-Canada border has been closed to nonessential travel since March 2020. However, the Canadian government added an exemption for immediate family and, in October 2020, expanded the exemption to include extended family. Under this policy, loved ones of a Canadian citizen, including a spouse, common-law partner, child, parent, sibling, grandchild, grandparent and those dating for over one year, are able to cross from the U.S. into Canada. The U.S. government has not extended the same exemptions allowing Canadian family members of American citizens to enter America.
Devon Weber and Cary Whaley, co-founders of Let Us Reunite, said, “In the almost 15 months ago since the initial closure, life has changed drastically for those with spouses, parents, committed partners and children on either side of the border. While many have yet to see their families, some have met in Canada because of their family exemptions. The U.S. government must make land border exemptions reciprocal. Family is essential and it’s time to let us reunite.”
Higgins, who has met with and heard from hundreds of separated families over the past year, has advocated for compassionate consideration of families previously including in a letter and phone call with U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and in remarks on the floor of the House of Representatives.
"Faces of Advocacy is a Canadian organization of over 11,400 dedicated to the safe reunification of Canadian families during the COVID-19 related travel restrictions,” said Faces of Advocacy founder Dr. David Edward-Ooi Poon. “We were directly responsible for the Extended Family and Compassionate Exemptions into Canada. It is time for the United States to do the same. Rep. Higgins has worked tirelessly to help binational families separated between the U.S. and Canada. His work on this issue will help thousands of families needlessly kept apart, suffering health crises alone, enduring once in a lifetime events apart, and missing the love they worked so hard to build.”
Existing bilateral policies closing the border to nonessential travel were set to expire on June 21. They have now been extended another month.
Higgins and Rep. Bill Huizenga of Michigan, his interparliamentary group co-chairman, released the following joint statement in response:
“Millions of Americans and Canadians are counting on our governments to work together to reach an agreement that provides a clear roadmap for reopening the border between our two nations.
“The lack of transparency surrounding these negotiations is a disservice to our constituents and the millions of residents on both sides of the border waiting to see their loved ones, visit their property, and renew business ties.
“While the arrival of vaccines in record time has been a modern marvel, the inability of the U.S. and Canadian governments to reach an agreement on alleviating border restrictions or aligning additional essential traveler classes is simply unacceptable.”
Jacobs Statement on U.S.-Canada Border-Closing Extension
Congressman Chris Jacobs released the following statement in response to the announcement the U.S.-Canada border would remain closed until at least July 21:
“This indefinite closure is a complete failure of leadership by the president and prime minister on this issue. This decision completely ignores both leaders’ calls to follow the science. The fact of the matter is vaccines are rolling out rapidly, and positivity rates are dropping significantly. There could be a plan implemented on June 22 that would allow families to reunite, homeowners to visit their property, and our nations’ tourism industries to survive this season without jeopardizing our safe and steady recovery from COVID-19.
“It is far past time for action. Since a binational resolution seems to be out of reach, the United States should unilaterally reopen our side of the U.S.-Canada border.”