1/29/2021 - Stefanik & Higgins Lead Bipartisan Push for Action on US-Canada Border Policy
Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21-R) and Congressman Brian Higgins (D-NY-26), who serve as Co-Chairs of the Congressional Northern Border Caucus, are leading a bipartisan letter making several recommendations to the Biden Administration supporting opportunities to improve the existing situation at the United States - Canada border. Congresswoman Stefanik released the following statement:
"As co-chair of the Northern Border Caucus, I am pleased that more than twenty of my republican and democratic colleagues have joined me in asking President Biden to immediately prioritize the reopening of the Northern Border. I have worked tirelessly with our counterparts in Canada on this issue, as it continues to impact North Country businesses, families, and communities. Today we’ve outlined tangible steps the Biden Administration can take to immediately relieve the hardships placed on border communities while charting a clear pathway forward. I will not stop working on behalf of my constituents until there is a tangible, long-lasting solution.”
Congressman Higgins said, “For communities like Western New York a trip across the border feels like a trip across the street. And after nearly a year divided, we are in desperate need of a plan to reconnect with our Canadian neighbors. The pandemic creates challenges, but working together we can develop policies that protects and benefits communities on both sides of the border. We are happy to share the insight we’ve gained based on the feedback we’ve received in recent months and expect it can be a useful guide as the Biden Administration moves forward.”
The letter, signed by a bipartisan coalition of 24 members of Congress, says in part, “…as we approach one year of restricted travel, we also must recognize the significant impact these restrictions have had on individuals, families, businesses, and communities on both sides of the border. The continued ritual of monthly extensions without substantive signs of collaboration or progress only increases uncertainty and amplifies hardship for the border communities we represent. Since the onset of the restrictions, we have been adamant that preserving the deep social and economic bond shared between the U.S. and Canada necessitates a clear pathway forward.”
The border between the US and Canada first closed to non-essential travel due to the pandemic in March of 2020 and restrictions continue to be in place today. On January 21, 2021 President Biden issued an executive order addressing northern border restrictions, calling for US departments to work with Canadian agencies and develop a plan to be delivered within 14-days.
In their letter, Stefanik, Higgins, and other members lay out several items for the Administration to consider as they develop a plan for the Northern Border. Members are proposing the following actions:
- Establish a Bilateral Plan for Restoring Travel
- Prioritize Vaccines and Testing for All CBP Staff
- Allow for Families to Safely Reunite
- Develop a Policy for Property Owners
- Ensure Reciprocal Access to Transit through Boundary Waters
For months, Stefanik and Higgins have been calling for a nuanced approach to northern border management under the pandemic that includes binational coordination and planning for safe, reasonable travel across the border.