Americas

Bipartisan governors press Biden administration on Canadian border restrictions

A bipartisan group of governors is pressing the Biden administration for answers on keeping the U.S-Canadian border closed to nonessential travel.

In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas on Friday, the governors asked for additional information relating to "COVID-19 travel restrictions that impact the U.S.-Canadian border."

"At this point in the nation's work to get the economy back on track, it is imperative that the federal government work more closely and transparently with us and our Canadian provincial counterparts to quickly define and implement a reopening plan," the letter reads.

"We have no doubt such a plan can ensure the safety and welfare of American citizens during this ever-changing pandemic landscape," it continued. 

 

The U.S.-Canadian border has been closed to nonessential travel since the pandemic began in March 2020.

The most recent extension was set to expire on July 21, but Canada announced on July 19 that it would accept fully vaccinated Americans and permanent residents for nonessential travel beginning Aug. 9.

However, days after Canada's announcement, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would extend the closure of land borders between Canada and Mexico through Aug. 21.

The governors - all of whom lead states that border Canada - wrote that the department's decision is "deepening the already significant economic impacts of the pandemic on northern border communities and states."

They added that their constituents, many of whom work for small businesses, are asking "how and when cross-border economic activity will resume in a safe and sustainable manner."

The group asked for the information or data that the federal government cited for its decision, the metrics it is using to determine when the border can reopen, and what obstacles "may exist to timely implementation of a thoughtful, clearly defined reopening plan."

In a statement to The Hill, a State Department spokesperson said the agency does not comment on "private correspondence with Secretary Blinken," adding that the restrictions were extended "to decrease the spread of COVID-19, including the Delta variant."

"The Department of State continues to engage with Canada to counter the threat of COVID-19, and with our interagency partners to implement appropriate public health measures," the spokesperson said. "It is critical that any travel measures are implemented in a way that does not disrupt pandemic response efforts nor impede movement of essential travelers or critical medical supplies."

The letter was signed by Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R), Maine Governor Janet Mills (D), Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D), Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R), New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R), North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R), Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R), Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D).

Updated: 4:53 p.m.

Outbrain