by: Isabella Colello
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWTI) — Lawmakers from across the country are again pushing for the reopening of the Northern Border ahead of the approaching holiday season.
On Tuesday, six Congress members sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas voices their opposition to the northern border travel restrictions that were extended on September 20 until October 21.
This specifically impacts Canadian travelers that are deemed “nonessential” by Customs and Border Protection. CBP defines essential as those who are U.S. citizens and lawful residents, individuals traveling for medical purposes, to attend educations institutions, those traveling to conduct essential work, individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade, in official government trade or diplomatic travel or members of the U.S. armed forces and the spouses and their children and spouses returning to the U.S.
In the letter sent on Tuesday, members of Congress urged the Department of Homeland Security to submit a plan to Congress that implements the reopening of the border between the United States and Canada. Members of Congress who address this letter to Secretary Mayorkas were those who represent states along the Northern Border.
This included Representatives Tom Emmer, R-MN, Michelle Fischbach R-MN, Peter Stauber, R-MN, Chris Jacobs, R-NY, Kelly Armstrong, R-ND, and Elise Stefanik, R-NY.
Congresswoman Stefanik, who represents New York’s 21st District, further criticized the decision to extend restrictions at the Northern Border.
“For too long, the Biden Administration has delayed the reopening of the northern border at the expense of the North Country’s families, tourism, and small businesses,” Rep. Stefanik said in a press release. “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. This prolonged closure has been devastating for our region, and the residents of the North Country deserve no further delay.”
The full letter sent to Secretary Mayorkas can be read below:
Dear Secretary Mayorkas:
As you know, President Biden has decided to extend the closure of land borders until, at the earliest, October 21, a decision that we do not support. In the hope that a reopening will occur promptly on or immediately after this date, we request an immediate report from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to Congress with a plan for operationalizing new border procedures.
As Representatives from northern border states, we are especially concerned about the situation along the United States-Canada border. Currently, Customs and Border Protection does not appear to have a plan in place to execute a safe reopening without causing tremendous delays at land ports of entry (LPOE). 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 LPOEs can operate successfully.
However, this issue impacts all Americans, not just those directly engaged in the cross-border trade in goods, which totaled nearly $720 billion in 2019. The movement of people, for tourism or other forms of discretionary travel, is also a major economic driver. Ninety percent of the Canadian population lives within one hundred miles of the border, making our country Canada’s largest inbound travel market. In 2018 alone, there were 21.5 million overnight arrivals from Canada, roughly half of which crossed a land border, and each Canadian visitor spent an average of $980 while in the United States.
The economic and social costs of the land border restrictions grow every day they remain in place, delaying the usual $1.7 billion in products that cross the U.S-Canada border daily and preventing nearly all non-essential travel. Any further delays at LPOE checkpoints upon reopening will only continue to further harm those who have already suffered over the past 16 months – including not just the business community, but also those who have been unable to visit friends, family, and loved ones for far too long.
We urge your office to move quickly on this important matter and stand ready to assist your efforts in any way possible.
Sincerely,TOM EMMER, R-MN, MICHELLE FISCHBACH R-MN, PETER STAUBER, R-MN, CHRIS JACOBS, R-NY, KELLY ARMSTRONG, R-ND, AND ELISE STEFANIK, R-NY
Travel from the United States into Canada has been restricted to non-essential travelers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.