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U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik of New York and Senator Steve Daines of Montana are today introducing a bill to Congress that aims to compel Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to start reopening the U.S.-Canada land border, which has remained closed to non-essential travel since March 2020.
Named the “Restoring Northern Border Travel Act“, which was first obtained by Fox News, the legislation is being proposed as the pandemic finally comes under control in both countries, with increasing vaccination rates that have triggered steep declines in COVID-19 cases. The bill’s introduction also follows months of Stefanik and Daines, along with several other members of Congress from northernmost states and districts, petitioning the government to reopen the border.
In a statement, Daines called it unfair that the current administration keeps the U.S.-Canada border closed and falsely claimed that the U.S.-Mexico border is “wide open”. “It is unacceptable that President Biden continues to ignore the needs of Montanans and keep the northern border closed while supporting the southern border being wide open to a surge of illegal immigrants and a flood of illegal drugs into our Montana communities,” he said.
In reality, the U.S.’ southern border remains just as locked down legally to non-essential travel or commerce via land crossings as its northern one. Mere days ago, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced, land borders with Canada and Mexico would remain closed to non-essential travel until at least July 21.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had already declared that Canada would retain its ban on U.S. crossings by land until that date, and would continue extending the policy until 75 percent of Canadians have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine and 20 percent are fully inoculated.
DHS officials said that it’s, “participating with other U.S. agencies in the White House’s expert working groups with Canada and Mexico to identify the conditions under which restrictions may be eased safely and sustainably.”
Regarding the DHS’ decision to extend the border closure until July, Stefanik said, “Extending the travel restrictions for yet another month, despite the tremendous progress the U.S. has made in fully vaccinating Americans and safely reopening, is absolutely unacceptable to the families, businesses, and communities along the northern border.”
Businesses and local economies rely heavily on regular cross-border traffic in these regions, and some have been struggling to stay afloat for the past 15 months.
Stefanik, the new chair of the House Republican Conference, accused Biden of “caving to Prime Minister Trudeau’s incessant desire to delay.” Daines effused, “The Biden administration’s inability to establish a plan to restore cross-border travel and relax travel restrictions is simply unacceptable for families and businesses located along the northern border.” He said, “Our communities have waited over a year for clarity and signs of progress, yet this administration keeps extending the closures without a promising end in sight.”
Should it pass (which seems unlikely with a majority of Democrats in both Congressional houses), the Stefanik-Daines bill would dictate that Mayorkas immediately begin allowing border crossings for the purposes of family visits, business travel, visiting property owned in the U.S. and travel to an American airport to board a plane. It would also require that the Homeland Security Secretary to present Congress with a “plan to full restore non-essential travel into the United States at land ports of entry along the United States-Canada border”.