Many representatives from border states have begun to push U.S. and Canadian officials to develop a reopening plan for the northern border.
Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, has been joined by Rep. Brian Higgins, a Democrat from Buffalo, as well as 27 other representatives from New York, Maine, Minnesota, Michigan and other border states, on a letter sent to the acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, and the Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair. The letter asks that the U.S. and Canada begin to develop a “comprehensive framework for phased reopening of the border,” based on objective data and with consideration for the varying circumstances of communities across the border region.
“As members representing congressional districts across the U.S. Northern Border, we understand the importance of prioritizing the safety of our communities as we all navigate the complex calculation of minimizing public health risks and resuming economic activity,” the letter reads. “However, the social and economic partnership between our two nations necessitates a clear pathway forward.”
The letter points out the uncertainty caused by the repeated, temporary extensions to border restrictions. Since March 24, DHS and the Canadian government have extended the lockdown in four 30-day increments, which the representatives say increases stress and causes tension. The most recent extension was announced by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on June 16, less than a week before the restrictions were set to expire. That extension is set to run out on July 21.
“The continual 30-day extensions without a plan for how restrictions will be modified prolongs uncertainty for both communities and creates unnecessary tension as we approach each new extension,” the letter reads.
Currently, border crossings are limited only to essential travelers. Essential travelers are defined by the current restrictions as people traveling for medical treatment, emergency or government purposes, school or work. Members of the military and those engaged in international trade between the two countries, like cargo truck drivers, are also permitted to cross.
The members of Congress also asked for an interim solution for individuals with property on the U.S. border that can only be accessed through Canada.
The representatives further asked that any plan that is drafted should match the reopening processes driven by public health data and other defined criteria that has been developed by states and provinces across the two nations.