Press Releases

DelBene Leads Calls on U.S. and Canada to Provide Transparency, Flexibility for Point Roberts, Border Communities During COVID-19

Today, Representatives Suzan DelBene (WA-01) and Collin Peterson (MN-07) called on the Canadian government to provide more flexibility and transparency for Americans who reside in the exclave communities of Point Roberts in Washington and the NW Angle in Minnesota. In a letter to the Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the lawmakers, who represent these two communities geographically separated from the rest of the country, urged the Canadian government to provide more advance notice of border policy changes and an exemption allowing travel through Canada to access the rest of the United States.

“The restriction on all discretionary travel at the Canada-U.S. border was extended until September 21, 2020 and was announced only five days before the restrictions were set to expire. Should border restrictions continue, more advanced notification of restriction extensions and an explanation of the metrics that contribute to future decisions would be much appreciated by our constituents,” the lawmakers wrote. “We would also greatly appreciate exemptions to allow Americans to briefly and safely transit through Canada without exiting vehicles to allow access to Point Roberts and the NW Angle.”   

Exceptions to the non-essential travel ban allow Americans to travel by car to and from Alaska through Canada. The same flexibility has not been given to those living in Point Roberts and the NW Angle who only need to travel a short distance through Canada to reach the rest of the United States.

Inconsistent interpretation of these rules has prevented Americans from transiting between these communities and the mainland U.S. to perform simple tasks such as buying groceries, attending doctor’s appointments with loved ones, and visiting family members. Recently, one Point Roberts resident, on orders from the U.S. military to relocate to Virginia, and her sister were planning to travel from Whatcom County to Point Roberts and back to facilitate the move. The sister was not permitted to cross.

In a separate letter, Rep. DelBene, along with Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02) and Washington Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, called on U.S. diplomats to work with Canadian officials to address broader issues border communities are facing.

“We respectfully request that you work with the Canadian government to provide more transparency for our constituents regarding the process and timing of easing restrictions on our northern border, and work with Canada to consider a phased approach to lifting border restrictions, as conditions permit, to better enable border communities to plan,” the four lawmakers said in a letter to the Acting U.S. Ambassador to Canada. 

Border communities have faced some of the most difficult economic challenges during COVID-19. In 2018, nearly seven million trips were made into Whatcom County from Canada. Approximately one-quarter of these visitors came specifically for shopping and they spent an estimated $138 million at local businesses. The prolonged border closure has resulted in crossings from Canada into Whatcom County dropping 98 percent from their 2018 numbers.

A copy of the Point Roberts letter can be found here, and a copy of the border issues letter can be found here