Despite Scientific Backing for Border Reopening, U.S.-Canada Border Effectively Remains Closed To Most Travel; Senator Says Border Must Open ASAP
Thousands Of U.S. & Canadian Property Owners And Businesses Are At Risk Of Losing Another Summer Season; Schumer Re-ups Fight To Top Officials
Schumer: It’s Time For The US To Take The First Step, Open The Border & Begin Upstate NY’s Recovery
PLASTTBURGH, NY — Continuing his months-long effort to safely reopen the U.S.-Canadian Border, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer stood at the Plattsburgh Boat Basin to double down on his calls to immediately allow nonessential travel across the Northern Border and for the U.S. to unilaterally take steps to expand essential travel definitions for Canadian travel into the U.S. if a binational agreement for reopening is not reached between the countries by July 21st.
Despite the senator’s repeated calls for transparency – which he made in personal visits to the Northern Border and in direct calls to Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Canadian Ambassador Kirsten Hillman – and demands for a detailed, publicized plan based on science and agreed upon by public officials and health experts from both governments, no such plan has been agreed upon. The senator said for residents in Northern Border communities that have economic, educational, property, medical, business, or family ties to Canada, the delay in reopening the border is unacceptable, especially given the high rates of vaccination against COVID in New York. Therefore, Schumer said it is high time for the U.S. and Canadian governments to give stakeholders on both sides of the border the clarity they deserve.
“It is imperative that U.S. and Canadian officials and public health experts continue to make headway on a plan to reopen the northern border to all vaccinated nonessential travelers that will allow for staged and steady border travel that will reunite families and friends and jumpstart local economies; however, if an agreement cannot be reached, New York communities, families and economies cannot continue to suffer and the United States must do two things: 1) expand the definition of essential travel to include vaccinated Canadian citizens with family, property, educational, medical, or business interest and 2) unilaterally open the Northern Border to those vaccinated Canadians,” said Senator Schumer. “For over a year, we have been told to follow the science, facts, and data, it’s time for the U.S. to do the same and finally take the first move in good faith to safely reopen the border vaccinated Canadians. Without a binational plan in progress to reopen the border, the U.S. must move unilaterally to allow northern border communities, families, and economies to fully recover from the pandemic.”
Schumer stressed the unfairness of the continued reopening delay after reports that the Canadian government is considering levying an addition tax on under-utilized vacation properties, despite not allowing American property owners to access their Canadian properties. In most cases, American and Canadian citizens with vacation homes across the border have not been able to visit their properties since last March.
The U.S.-Canadian Border first closed to non-essential travel on March 20, 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID between the two countries. Since then, the border has remained closed, causing hardships for individuals, families, businesses and communities, who depended on cross-border travel to see loved ones or to generate revenue. Schumer said the people who have done their civic duty to get vaccinated and complied with the border closure for the greater good of public health, deserve justification for the border’s continued closure and a plan with benchmark goals that will lead to reopening.
Senator Schumer’s letter to Secretaries Blinken and Mayorkas appear below:
Dear Secretaries Blinken and Mayorkas:
I write again to urge the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security to take immediate action to safely reopen the Northern Broder for nonessential travel. As we approach yet another expiration of the ban on nonessential travel between the United States and Canada without a transparent, bilateral plan to safely reopen the Northern Border, it is time that the United States take action unilaterally. Specifically, I request you [take steps] to expand essential travel definitions for Canadian Citizens entering the United States if a joint agreement is not reached by July 21st.
For months, I have asked that you work with your Canadian counterparts to finally develop a bi-national plan based on public health data and guidance – with specific standards, protocols, and metrics – to safely reopen the Northern Border to nonessential travel. Additionally I asked you to negotiate an interim expansion of the essential travel designation to include thousands of impacted New Yorkers, in addition to millions of other vaccinated American and Canadian citizens, while also clarifying the policy for boaters who traverse the border mid-transit. However there has been no reported progress on any of these measures even as the latest month-long extension of the border shutdown is set to expire on July 21st.
If no agreement can be reached with our Canadian allies, I ask that the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security unilaterally expand the definition of essential travel to include vaccinated Canadian citizens with family, property, educational, medical, or business interests in the United States. New York communities along the Northern Border depend on the cross-border commerce to sustain their economies and they cannot afford another summer like the last. For over a year, continuous extensions of the border closure – without signs of progress – have caused hardships for individuals, families and businesses on both sides of the border who remain trapped in a cycle of waiting. Action by the United States’ to allow a broader definition of Canadian Citizens to cross the border will help bring some relief to property owners and businesses at risk of losing another summer season.
Once the epicenter of the global health and economic pandemic, New Yorkers have worked diligently to significantly reduce the spread of COVID infections and have led the nation in vaccinations; it is now incumbent on the federal government to do its part. Due to high vaccination rates of New Yorkers and the subsequent decline in cases in New York and elsewhere, it has become abundantly clear that an agreement can and should be reached to safely accommodate the border communities without compromising the fight against COVID-19.
I appreciate your attention on this important matter and look forward to further discussions.