BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced the closure of the U.S.-Canada border to non-essential travel has been extended through June 21. It was set to expire on May 21.
To fight #COVID19 spread and protect our citizens, the U.S. is continuing restrictions on non-essential travel at land borders through June 21, while allowing essential trade & travel. We're working closely with Canada & Mexico to safely ease restrictions as conditions improve.— Homeland Security (@DHSgov) May 20, 2021
The border has been closed to non-essential travel for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A report from Bloomberg News last week stated the Canadian government is holding internal discussions about plans to reopen the border to non-essential travel.
Earlier this month Rep. Brian Higgins (D - NY26) began pressuring the Department of Homeland Security to take action to reopen the border to non-essential travel. Just yesterday Higgins announced he sent a letter to Governor Cuomo asking New York State to make COVID-19 vaccines available to Canadian residents.
Although Higgins has made that request, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said under current restrictions a vaccine appointment alone is not an allowance to cross the border. The Public Health Agency of Canada also tells 7 Eyewitness News the quarantine exemption for those traveling for medical services was not intended for those seeking a COVID-19 vaccine.
In a statement Thursday, Higgins said the following:
It is truly unacceptable at this point to have another 30-day extension with no further exceptions for those vaccinated, no goals or targets outlined to expand crossings, no reciprocal allowances for family reunification, and no plan. We have made great strides in fighting the pandemic and we need to make progress on reopening the border. That is essential to both families that have been separated for way too long and to our binational economies.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) who has also urged U.S. officials to work with the Canadian government to reopen the northern border to non-essential travel as soon as possible released the following statement Thursday after a personal call with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas Wednesday.
While at the beginning — and in the height — of the pandemic it was understandable for such drastic measures to be taken, we know much more about the virus than we knew in March of last year and are making strong gains against it. Since vaccination rates have risen, overall rates are steadily falling, and New York is reopening today, based on the data, it is time to take the first steps towards reopening the Northern Border to non-essential travel. That is why I made a personal call to Secretary Mayorkas to coordinate with their Canadian counterparts ASAP and come up with a plan — based on science, data and common sense — that will allow for safe and steady border travel and reunite families and friends and jumpstart local economies. I’m also asking that they take appropriate measures to ease the burden shared by thousands of stakeholders across the Northern Border.