The U.S. land border closure has been extended. Here's what it's costing Windsorites

·3 min read
Yvonne Pilon (left) wants to cross the border to see loved ones, but she says the pricetag is nearly 100 times what it used to be. Yahaya Alphonse (right) is a University of Windsor masters' student, who says the border closure is impacting his education and ability to network. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC - image credit)
Yvonne Pilon (left) wants to cross the border to see loved ones, but she says the pricetag is nearly 100 times what it used to be. Yahaya Alphonse (right) is a University of Windsor masters' student, who says the border closure is impacting his education and ability to network. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC - image credit)

Windsor resident Yvonne Pilon's recent trip back to Detroit cost 100 times more than it normally would.

Pilon travelled by air earlier this month to visit family and friends in Michigan for the first time since the pandemic began. And if she wants to visit them again, it looks like her pocketbook will take yet another hit.

On Monday, U.S. President Joe Biden announced that the border would remain closed to non-essential visitors at land crossings such as the Ambassador Bridge and Windsor-Detroit Tunnel for at least another month, until Oct. 21. The closure has been ongoing for 18 months — since March 2020 — though the ban doesn't apply to air travel.

As the U.S. land border closure continues, some Windsorites are speaking out about what it's costing them.

In a tweet, Pilon broke down the cost of the trip, noting it was significantly more expensive than simply driving across the border. She says this shows how the closure is disproportionately impacting lower-income communities.

"I consider myself someone who is privileged, who has the ability and the vacation time and the income to do this and it think it really was to show how only people with income or disposable income can make this trip," she said.

Dale Molnar/CBC
Dale Molnar/CBC

Pilon says she drove from Windsor to Toronto, then flew out of Toronto into Detroit. That trip — including gas for her car, parking at the airport and COVID-19 tests — cost roughly $1,200 and took 10 hours of her time, whereas crossing by land costs $12.75 and could take between 30 minutes to an hour at most for NEXUS card holders.

"The purpose of this tweet was more to showcase that love shouldn't be divided because of how much money you have in the bank or how much vacation you have banked," she said.

Student says closure affected education

University of Windsor master's student Yahaya Alphonse says he moved to Windsor in May hoping the border would be open again.

Alphonse is specializing in international and global politics. He says he chose UWindsor for its proximity to the U.S. and its large border crossing.

Jennifer La Grassa/CBC
Jennifer La Grassa/CBC

For his undergraduate degree, Alphonse was in Sault Ste. Marie, another border town. At the time, he said they frequently collaborated with students in northern Michigan and he hoped it would be the same here.

"When I was coming here I felt like well, I could always travel to Detroit and go for events they have at the University of Michigan," he said, adding he hoped to build his network and explore the city.

"But things have changed right now with the pandemic, the cost of going there is ridiculously expensive and me as a student already struggling with finances and having limited amount of money you can spend as a student, [the border closure has] cost me that relationship."

'Unending wait' for border to reopen

Reflecting on her cross-border trip, Pilon said transmission of COVID-19 seems more likely travelling by air than by car.

"When I think about my journey to Detroit, I was in an airport with hundreds and hundreds of people, I was in a plane with probably close to 100 people, whereas if I was travelling across the border, I would likely be by myself," she said.

"So when you think of the opportunity for potential transmission of any type of COVID, it would be a lot more increased doing the travel by air than the travel by car."

As each month ticks by with another notice of extension, Alphonse said it's started to feel like an "unending wait."

The appeal of living and studying in Windsor was the border, but now Alphonse questions whether he'll ever get the experience of crossing over and intimately learning about the Canada-U.S. relationship.

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