Despite Canada's easing, U.S. adds 30 days to travel restrictions at shared border

·3 min read

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is extending its COVID-19 restrictions on travel by land from Canada until at least Aug 21.

Details of the extension were posted in a notice on the U.S. Federal Register, which publishes details of the administration's proposed and finalized decisions and policies.

The move comes despite the Canadian government's decision to begin easing its own restrictions on fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents as of Aug. 9.

It also comes as little surprise: Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said Monday that Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas had warned him the U.S. would not be following Canada's lead.

Border experts say the Biden administration is likely not ready to open the U.S.-Mexico border, given the existing refugee crisis there, and wants both frontiers opened at the same time.

The news was met with outrage from U.S. critics and lawmakers who have been pressing the White House to ease the restrictions, in place since March 2020. New York Rep. Brian Higgins says he's "infuriated" with the decision, which he calls "completely unnecessary."

The notice from Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection acknowledges "positive developments" in the fight against COVID-19, particularly with regards to vaccination rates in both countries.

But it says Mayorkas has determined that the risk of travel-related transmission continues to pose a "specific threat to human life or national interests."

Allowing normal travel to resume "places the personnel staffing land ports of entry between the United States and Canada, as well as the individuals travelling through these ports of entry, at increased risk of exposure to the virus associated with COVID-19."

The decision was met with anger north of the border as well.

The bilateral "road map" for a renewed cross-border partnership, issued by President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau back in February, promised a science-based, co-ordinated approach to reopening the border, said Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

"Less than five months later, Washington appears to have lost its copy," Beatty said in a statement, noting the discrepancy in the U.S. approach: Americans can travel freely within their borders, and air travel from Canada to the U.S. remains unfettered.

"It's hard to see how allowing fully vaccinated Canadians to enter the U.S. poses a public health threat when travel within the U.S. is unrestricted."

John Adams, a Florida resident who owns a vacation property on Vancouver Island, has been crowdfunding a cross-border television and internet ad campaign against the two governments in recent weeks to convince them to lower the barriers.

Adams — calling the extension a "bonehead decision by the Biden administration" — said he's now setting his sights squarely on the White House with a new ad to be completed by the end of the week.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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