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Following Months Of Advocacy To Reopen, DHS Secretary Mayorkas Called Schumer Directly To Announce Lifting Of Land Border Restrictions For Vaccinated Canadian Travelers 

Senator Has Fought For Past Five Months For Binational Plan To Reopen U.S.-Canadian Border; Represents Deliverance Of Major Victory For Northern Border Economies That Depend On Cross-Border Traffic

Schumer: U.S. Border Reopening Will Be The Shot-In-The-Arm Upstate NY’s Economy Needs

Capping a months-long effort to safely reopen the U.S.-Canadian border at land crossings, U.S. Senate Majority Leader today announced that he has direct confirmation from Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas that the U.S. plans to reopen the U.S.-Canadian border to nonessential vaccinated travelers by early November. This comes nearly two months after the Canadian government opened their side of the border to vaccinated U.S. travelers and will represent the first nonessential bilateral crossings since the nascent stages of the pandemic in March of 2020.  

“Kudos to president Biden for doing the right thing and increasing cross border travel between Canada and the U.S.,” said Senator Schumer. “The high vaccination rates on each side of the boarder have opened the door of safe cross border travel and will now safely increase the rebirth of the economic energy of Upstate NY.”

Senator Schumer added, “Since the beginning of the pandemic, members of our shared cross-border community have felt the pain and economic hardship of the land border closures. That pain is about to end. Very soon, the link between New York and our northern neighbors will finally be re-established, reuniting families, bolstering businesses, and ending a frustrating cycle of waiting for everyone involved.”

Schumer has repeatedly called for a detailed, publicized plan for reopening based on science and agreed upon by public officials and health experts since May of this year, citing the economic, educational, property, medical, business, or family ties to Canada many communities along the Northern Border have. Specifically, he has made multiple calls calls to DHS Department of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas, Canadian Ambassador Kirsten Hillman, and Secretary of State Blinken, following his personal visits to the Rainbow BridgeMassenaPlattsburgh, and Sackets Harbor earlier this year.

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. On August 9th, Canada reopened the border to vaccinated travelers from the U.S., but the U.S. held off on following suit. Under current restrictions, which will be lifted in early November as Schumer confirmed, Americans can fly into Canada with proof of a negative COVID test, but cannot enter through a land port of entry.

Senator Schumer’s original letter sent in May to Secretaries Mayorkas and Blinken appears below:

Dear Secretaries Blinken and Mayorkas:

I write to urge the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security to work in coordination with your Canadian counterparts to finally develop a transparent, bilateral, and public plan based on public health data and guidance – with specific standards, protocols, and metrics – to safely reopen the Northern Border to non-essential travel. Similarly, I strongly urge you to negotiate an interim expansion of the essential travel designation to include the thousands of impacted New Yorkers, in addition to millions of other vaccinated American and Canadian citizens. Having endured one of the deadliest chapters in New York’s history, the residents along the border are ready to turn the page and re-establish the familiar links to their loved ones, their property, and their prosperity.

While the fight against the COVID pandemic remains paramount, we must acknowledge the progress New Yorkers have made in rolling up their sleeves, getting vaccinated, and reducing the burden of the virus. Due to the rising rates of vaccinated Americans 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.  A bi-national plan with clearly defined benchmarks will provide clarity and transparency to a confusing and frustrating process.  Such an agreement is critical to safely and coherently reopening the border for non-essential travel as quickly as the underlying data would permit.  I ask that this detailed plan be publicly released with all due speed.

As you work bilaterally to develop this plan, I further request that you work with our Canadian allies to immediately expand the definition of essential travel to include that of citizens with family, property, educational, medical, or business interests, who have also fulfilled their civic responsibility to get vaccinated. As we approach the summer season, thousands of New Yorkers and Canadians alike are facing the prospect of being cut-off from their properties for another year. Compounding this headache is the report that the Canadian government is preparing to levy additional taxes on underutilized vacation properties, despite the inability of property owners to reach their homes.

Additionally, I once again ask that you work with your Canadian counterparts to clarify the policy for boaters who traverse the border mid-transit. Boaters, including tour boat companies that cross the border without docking, do not increase the spread of COVID-19 and should not be unduly penalized by the border policy.

Lastly, I request that you develop a plan to ensure the safety of our border personnel as we reopen the border. It is incumbent upon both the United States and Canada to provide adequate testing, vaccination, and protective equipment to CBP and all federal employees along the entirety of the Northern Border. I also ask that CBP evaluate current policies and processes to increase efficiency and touchless travel at ports of entry. Without ensuring the safety of our frontline personnel and adapting our port procedures to a new COVID reality, we cannot hope to return to the normalcy that has defined U.S.-Canadian border crossings in New York and beyond.

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 week after week; it is now incumbent on the federal government to do their part and aid their desperate desire to fully rebuild and recover. This recovery cannot be done, and I will not rest, until bilateral collaboration to safely reopen the United States and Canadian land border is an utmost priority and a plan for a full reopening is publicly released.