Washington Delegation Members Urge President to Prioritize Safely Reopening Canada-U.S. Border
Today, Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) led 7 members of the Washington congressional delegation in urging President Joe Biden to work with the Canadian government to create a plan, guided by public health data and science, to safely reopen the Canada-U.S. border.
The border has been closed since March 2020 when the COVID-19 crisis began. The closure has been extended several times during the pandemic, currently through March 21, 2021, often with only a few days’ notice. Border residents deserve more transparency and advanced notice of future border policy changes.
“Minimizing the risk presented by COVID-19 and prioritizing the safety of our communities remains of utmost importance while the U.S. and Canada work to overcome this public health crisis. However, as we approach one year of restricted travel, individuals, families, businesses, and communities on both sides of the border have been significantly impacted by these restrictions,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter.
The lawmakers ask the Biden administration to prioritize:
1. Establishing a bilateral plan for easing restrictions and restoring travel.
2. Vaccinating and testing all necessary U.S. Customs and Border Protection staff to safely reopen travel.
3. Reciprocate the Canadian travel exemptions to allow families and loved ones to reunite.
4. Develop a policy for property owners to cross the border to maintain their properties.
5. Work with Canada to develop reciprocal access to transit through boundary waters.
6. Permit Point Roberts residents to cross through Canada and into the mainland United States.
7. Advocate for American schoolchildren living in border communities and enrolled in Canadian schools to cross into Canada to attend school.
8. Upon the safe resumption of cruises in the United States, ensure that U.S. homeported cruise ships required to stop in Canada are able to make technical or service stops if the CDC and Canadian health authorities agree that all protocols have been established and are being met by cruise ships and cruise ports.
Communities along the border have been significantly hit hard by the closure. In 2018, nearly 7 million trips were made into Whatcom County by visitors from Canada, with approximately one-quarter of these visitors spending an estimated $138 million in local stores and businesses. Crossings from Canada into Whatcom County were down 98% in 2020, severely restricting the economic activity and tax revenue of this border community.
The delegation also expressed concerns about the inconsistent application of border restrictions by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). The Canadian government grants individual discretion to CBSA agents in determining what is or is not an essential crossing. As a result, delegation offices have received numerous reports of constituents who were turned away from essential crossings and forced to go without medical care and food.
The closure has created acute problems for the community of Point Roberts that must travel through Canada to access the rest of the mainland U.S. Point Roberts has seen businesses shutter, school children fall behind, an emerging food scarcity crisis, and deteriorating community mental health, while not contracting a single case of COVID-19.
“We need Canada to apply border restrictions uniformly, no matter which CBSA agent meets an American at the border crossing,” the letter continues.
The letter was signed by Representatives Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Rick Larsen (WA-02), Kim Schrier (WA-08), Adam Smith (WA-09), and Marilyn Strickland (WA-10). The full text of the letter can be found here.