US keeps ban on nonessential border crossings

WASHINGTON — Some North Country politicians criticized the U.S. government on Friday after it extended a ban on nonessential travel along the borders with Canada and Mexico to slow the spread of COVID-19 despite increasing pressure to lift the restriction.

U.S. border communities that are dependent on shoppers from Mexico and Canada and their political representatives have urged the Biden administration to lift the ban. In addition, Canada began letting fully vaccinated U.S. citizens enter the country on Aug. 9.

“The announcement today that the United States will continue to keep the Canadian border closed is outrageous,” said Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake, in a statement. “Canada opened the border for Americans earlier this month which allowed some people in the North Country to reunite with their families and it is absurd that the United States has yet to reciprocate or even have a plan in place. Although Canada’s reopening plan is somewhat restrictive, it has at least allowed for passage of some United States travelers, and the United States must put forth a reopening plan.”

Jones said the border closure continues to hurt the North Country economy and keep families and loved ones apart.

“I am calling for an immediate reversal of this decision and action must be taken to safely reopen our border,” Jones said.

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, blamed President Joe Biden for not reopening the northern border.

“The cost of President Biden’s inaction is devastating to North Country families, businesses, and communities hopeful that the United States would restore travel across the border,” Stefanik said in a statement. “It is shameful that while the Canadian government has opened travel for fully vaccinated American travelers, President Biden would still deny northern border communities access to family, travel, and commerce. Even though it is past time for the Biden Administration to take action, I will not stop advocating for the residents of the North Country until our northern border is reopened.”

Stefanik introduced the Restoring Northern Border Travel Act in June. If approved, it would require the Department of Homeland Security to expand the categories of permitted travel into the U.S. across the U.S./Canada border. That would include people traveling to visit family members or property in the U.S., attend business meetings or site-visits or access U.S. airports. The bill would also require DHS to begin implementing and submit to Congress a plan to fully restore nonessential travel into the U.S. at the northern border.

DHS said in a tweet Friday that the restrictions on nonessential travel were still needed to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and the delta variant. It extended the ban until at least Sept. 21.

DHS said it is working with public health and medical experts to determine how to “safely and sustainably resume normal travel.”

The travel restrictions have been in place since early in the pandemic in March 2020 and repeatedly extended while allowing commercial traffic and essential crossings to continue.


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