U.S. to open land borders

U.S. Customs officers stand beside a sign saying that the U.S. border is closed at the U.S./Canada border in Lansdowne, Ontario, on March 22, 2020. Lars Hagberg/AFP via Getty Images/TNS

WASHINGTON — As the nation’s land borders remain closed to nonessential traffic, a contingent of northern border state representatives are pushing the Biden administration to at least develop a plan for reopening.

In a letter sent to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas on Monday, Congresswoman Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, and five other Republican representatives from New York, Minnesota and North Dakota asked the department to present a plan to Congress for safely and efficiently reopening the country’s land borders.

In the letter, the congressional leaders say it appears Customs and Border Protection, a subsidiary agency of the Department of Homeland Security, does not have a plan in place to reopen any land ports of entry if and when the United States reopens borders for nonessential travel.

“This is a major problem for members of the commercial trade sector, who need to know whether DHS will assign appropriate resources to maintain adequate levels of security and efficiency so that all (land ports of entry) can operate successfully,” the letter reads.

The letter states that border crossings are integral to every American because of the economic importance of tourism and Canadian visitors to American cities. Coupled with the $1.7 billion in products that cross the U.S.-Canada border annually, the representatives said any delays at land ports of entry when the border is reopened could have a dramatically negative impact.

“Any further delays at (land port of entry) checkpoints upon reopening will only continue to further harm those who have already suffered over the past 16 months,” the letter reads.

American land ports of entry along the northern and southern borders have been closed to nonessential traffic since March of 2020. The closure was initially planned as a monthlong measure, but has been extended monthly since it was first declared. The northern border is currently scheduled to reopen Oct. 21, although it is likely another extension will be announced shortly before that date.

Canada reopened its border on Aug. 9, to vaccinated Americans who test negative for COVID-19.

In a statement publicizing the letter to DHS, Rep. Stefanik said the Biden administration has taken too long to reopen the border, at the expense of north country families, tourists and small businesses.

“While Biden’s bureaucrats continue to postpone, the least they can do is put a plan in place for reopening, so life in border communities can resume without additional delay,” she said. “This prolonged closure has been devastating for our region and the residents of the north country deserve no further delay.”

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