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Higgins: U.S. extends restrictions on non-essential travel at U.S.-Canada border to October 21

Border Closed at Peace Bridge
Posted at 11:15 AM, Sep 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-20 23:12:19-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The United States has again announced an extension to its restrictions on non-essential travel into the United States from Canada, according to a statement from Congressman Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo).

The restrictions, which were set to expire on September 21, will now remain in effect through October 21.

“It’s extremely disappointing and it really defies logic,” President and CEO of Buffalo Niagara Partnership Dottie Gallagher said.

The border closure has had a big effect in several areas. The NFTA said Canadians make up 30% of people who travel through the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. They said the airport is operating at about 60% capacity and do not expect that to go up until the border re-opens.

“They’re not coming here, they’re not spending money, they can’t attend our sporting events, they don’t shop in our stores, they can’t go to our cultural events," Gallagher said.

According to the Canadain government, 68.72% of their residents are fully vaccinated, compared to 56.7% in Western New York.

“The underlying problem with all this is that if people don’t get vaccinated we are going to continue to have restrictions in our lifestyle," state senator Sean Ryan said.

The Department of Homeland Security says the restrictions do not apply to air, freight rail, or sea travel but do apply to land ports of entry and ferry terminals along the U.S.-Canada border. In Western New York, this includes the Peace Bridge, Rainbow Bridge, and Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.

The restrictions do not apply to essential travel. According to DHS "essential travel" includes but is not limited to:

  • U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States;
  • Individuals traveling for medical purposes (e.g., to receive medical treatment in the United States);
  • Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions;
  • Individuals traveling to work in the United States (e.g., individuals working in the farming or agriculture industry who must travel between the United States and Canada in furtherance of such work);
  • Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes (e.g., government officials or emergency responders entering the United States to support federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government efforts to respond to COVID-19 or other emergencies);
  • Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade (e.g., truck drivers supporting the movement of cargo between the United States and Canada);
  • Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel;
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces, returning to the United States; and
  • Individuals engaged in military-related travel or operations.

Canada opened its border to vaccinated Americans, with COVID-19 testing requirements, on August 9.

In a statement, Congressman Higgins said:

Continued closure of the U.S. border to vaccinated Canadians is completely unnecessary and unexplained.

It is welcome news that the White House is making progress on reciprocating international public health measures to protect air travelers. Yet it is inexplicable that no announcement on easing travel restrictions at land ports of entry is being made today since the livelihoods of communities across the Northern Border depend on cross-border commerce.

Canada’s unilateral action to allow Americans to cross the border beginning in August demonstrated what we already knew: vaccines were the turning point that make reopening the border possible. This was substantial progress in our fight to reconnect with our Canadian neighbors, but we need action on the U.S. side. Canada opened its land crossings successfully and the United States should be acting today to do the same.