Daines, R-Mont., and Stefanik, R-N.Y., said they “urge immediate action” on the bill “to reopen the U.S. – Canada border for non-essential travel and revitalize American jobs and tourism.”
“It is past time for Congress to act and bring long-overdue relief to families and businesses in northern border communities, who have suffered nearly 18 months of hardship and uncertainty due to the travel restrictions,” they added.
The border closure has been extended over and over since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, most recently on Aug. 20 when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that the closure will extend until at least Sept. 21. Daines and Stefanik argue that the continued closure is not justified in light of the progress the U.S. has made in fighting the pandemic, like vaccines.
“The reduction in cross-border traffic has had a significant impact on local economies along the northern border, including agriculture, small businesses, and tourism,” they said.
Daines’ state of Montana and Stefanik’s state of New York each share hundreds of miles of border with Canada. Stefanik notably represents her state’s 21st Congressional District, which includes the northernmost part of the state and most of its land border with Canada. As a senator, Daines represents all of Montana.
In its most recent extension of the border closure, DHS cited the delta variant of COVID-19 in addition to the existence of the virus itself.
“To minimize the spread of #COVID19, including the Delta variant, the United States is extending restrictions on non-essential travel at our land and ferry crossings with Canada and Mexico through September 21, while continuing to ensure the flow of essential trade and travel,” the agency said. “In coordination with public health and medical experts, DHS continues working closely with its partners across the United States and internationally to determine how to safely and sustainably resume normal travel.”
The delta variant’s spread has led to a significant increase in COVID-19 cases in the United States and stressed hospital systems in some areas.
But Daines and Stefanik noted in their letter that Canada has taken steps to open its border with the United States, while the Biden administration continues to refuse what it deems nonessential travel of Canadians into the U.S.
“While the Canadian government opened its border to fully vaccinated American travelers on August 9th in clear recognition of the close bilateral partnership our nations share, the Biden Administration failed to reciprocate these measures and delayed reopening the border for at least another month,” Daines and Stefanik said. “To make matters worse, the Biden Administration has provided zero transparency on the metrics and decision-making process guiding these continued restrictions.”
Daines and Stefanik are not the only politicians pressing the Biden administration to reopen the border.
“The percentage of Canada’s population that is fully vaccinated is now more than 12 percentage points higher than in the United States, yet the Biden administration refuses to reopen the border to Canadians for nonessential travel,” North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, lamented in a statement last month.
Democrat Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said last month, according to the Grand Forks Herald, that he hopes the Biden administration will “reconsider” its border closure.
Walz and Burgum were also among the nine governors who signed a letter from the National Governors Association to the Biden administration in late July asking for a “detailed briefing” on its plan to open the border.