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King pushes White House to open northern border

From Sen. King

WA S H I N G T O N , D.C. – The Office of U.S. Senator Angus King (I-ME) last week announced that Senator King and a group of his colleagues are urging President Joe Biden to begin allowing vacci­nated Canadians to travel to the U.S. through land ports of entry in the com­ing weeks.

Noting the economic and familial strains caused on states like Maine by the continued restrictions at the U.S.-Canada border, the Senators wrote a letter to the President urging him to lift travel restrictions at the end of this month, create a public plan to reopen land ports of entry to vaccinated Canadians, and appoint an interagency lead to spear­head coordination. In ad­dition to Senator King, the letter is signed by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jon Tester (D-MT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Kirsten Gil­librand (D-NY), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

“As Senators who represent states along the northern border, our com­munities have been deep­ly affected by the restric­tions on travel. Many of our communities maintain close professional and per­sonal ties with communi­ties in Canada. Canadians come to our states to con­duct business, enjoy recre­ational opportunities, buy goods, and visit friends and family. The restrictions on non-essential travel across the border have greatly curtailed these activities and led to economic and emotional strain in our communities,” the Sena­tors wrote.

“We appreciate the need to prioritize the health and safety of the American public through reasonable restrictions on internation­al travel,” the Senators continued. “However, we believe that fully vaccinat­ed Canadians should be al­lowed to safely travel into the United States via land ports of entry. We urge you to lift these restrictions before October, provide a plan for reopening land ports of entry and appoint an interagency lead on U.S.-Canadian border re­strictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Since March 2020, travel across the two na­tions’ border has been se­verely restricted by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in significant disruptions to Maine com­munities, businesses and families. In light of prog­ress in COVID-19 vacci­nations in both countries, Canada opened its bor­der to vaccinated Amer­icans last month, but the U.S. government extended its ban on non-essential travel from Canada.

Senator King has repeatedly advocated for vaccinated Canadians to be able to enter the United States and support Maine businesses. In July, he joined with Maine’s Con­gressional Delegation in sending a letter to Secre­tary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, urg­ing the Biden Administra­tion to take steps to allow fully-vaccinated Canadi­ans to cross the border for business or leisure.

Letter to Pres. Biden

Dear President Biden,

We write regard­ing current Department of Homeland Security (DHS) restrictions limit­ing non-essential travel from Canada to the Unit­ed States at land ports of entry along the United States-Canada border. We appreciate the need to pri­oritize the health and safe­ty of the American public through reasonable restric­tions on international trav­el. However, we believe that fully vaccinated Cana­dians should be allowed to safely travel into the Unit­ed States via land ports of entry. We urge you to lift these restrictions before October, provide a plan for reopening land ports of entry and appoint an inter­agency lead on U.S.-Ca­nadian border restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Senators who represent states along the northern border, our com­munities have been deeply affected by the restric­tions on travel. Many of our communities maintain close professional and personal ties with commu­nities in Canada. Canadi­ans come to our states to conduct business, enjoy recreational opportuni­ties, buy goods, and visit friends and family. The restrictions on non-essen­tial travel across the bor­der have greatly curtailed these activities and led to economic and emotional strain in our communities. These limits on cross-bor­der travel via land ports of entry are still in place even though, under exist­ing DHS regulations, fully vaccinated Canadians can board an airplane and fly into the United States. We struggle to understand the public health rationale for the disparate treatment in modes of travel.

As you know, ful­ly vaccinated Americans have been able to enter Canada via land ports of entry since August 9. This is true despite lower vac­cination rates and higher per capita case rates in America. As of this writing, 84 percent of individuals 12 and older in Canada have received at least one dose of the vaccine and the country is experiencing 10 cases per 100,000 people. Alternatively, 74 percent of individuals 12 and older in the U.S. have received the vaccine and we are aver­aging 44 cases per 100,000 people. Given that Canada has opened its land border to fully vaccinated Amer­icans, we feel that now is the time to open our land border to fully vaccinated Canadians.

We also urge you to provide a public plan for reopening travel to fully vaccinated Canadians at land ports of entry. Busi­nesses in our states need to plan ahead, which in­cludes an assessment of the impact of ongoing travel restrictions on their oper­ations. A plan with some indication of when your administration would feel comfortable lifting bor­der restrictions based on public health data would provide clarity to business­es and families along the northern border. It is also necessary to ensure that DHS personnel at land ports of entry in our states are ready to reopen to fully vaccinated Canadians as soon as the restrictions are lifted.

Finally, we ask that you designate an inter­agency lead responsible for monitoring and even­tually lifting non-essen­tial travel restrictions. We understand that decisions relative to restrictions on travel at the border nec­essarily involve multiple federal agencies and exec­utive branch personnel. We also appreciate the efforts of the administration’s COVID-19 task force to process and evaluate the public health data and oth­er information they receive from the various agencies. However, naming an in­teragency lead on non-es­sential travel restrictions would give this issue the attention it deserves and provide clarity to our of­fices and constituents. An interagency lead would facilitate discussions be­tween the administration and our offices and ensure that we are able to effec­tively convey the concerns of our constituents as you evaluate the COVID-19 pandemic.

We know that vac­cines work and provide the best opportunity to end this pandemic. We should recognize their efficacy and stop penalizing north­ern border communities by lifting the restrictions on non-essential travel for fully vaccinated Canadi­ans. The COVID-19 pan­demic has already taken a devastating economic and human toll on our coun­try. Vaccines offer us the chance to mitigate and ultimately eliminate the spread of this virus. Allow­ing fully vaccinated Cana­dians to travel freely to our states and others would re­flect the public health data which shows that vaccines work.

We appreciate your consideration and look forward to continuing our work with you on this issue.

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