BUFFALO (TNS) — U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins wants federal officials to follow the lead of the Canadian government and explore possible exemptions to current restrictions at the U.S-Canadian border that would allow for additional family reunification measures.
In a letter to President Donald Trump, Higgins, a Democrat who serves as co-chair of the Northern Border Caucus, asked for the implementation of what he described as “carefully calibrated exemptions” to restrictions, adding that the exemptions should be “based on reasonable public health metrics.”
The exemptions would cover property owners and those traveling to reunite with family members across the border.
”The Canadian government has relaxed restrictions for travel of family members of Canadian citizens on two separate occasions already…The United States, however, has yet to adopt similar exemptions for land border crossings,” Higgins wrote.
The border between the U.S. and Canada first closed due to the pandemic on March 24 and the non-essential travel ban has now been extended multiple times, the first through May 20, then to June 22, July 21, Aug. 21, and Sept. 21. The current order is set to expire Oct. 21.
Under the current U.S. order, border crossings into the U.S. are only allowed for: U.S. citizens returning to the U.S.; individuals traveling for medical purposes; individuals traveling to attend educational institutions or work; individuals traveling for emergency or government response; individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade (e.g. cargo drivers) and members of the military.
However, the Canadian government previously added an exemption to allow for immediate family members of Canadian citizens to enter Canada to reunite with family if they follow a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Immediate family is defined as a spouse or common-law partner, depended child, dependent child of a dependent child, parent or step-parent, or guardian.
On Thursday, the Canadian government released the details of further exemptions to allow for the reunification of extended family members. Those considered to be an extended family member include: those in an exclusive dating relationship for at least one year, an adult child, a grandchild, a sibling, half-sibling, or step-sibling, and a grandparent.
Prior to the pandemic Western New Yorkers and Southern Ontarians shared a close relationship with frequent travel across the border to shop, dine out, visit with family and friends, vacation, attend sporting events and take in cultural programs.
Higgins recognized the travel ban, which has now been in place for nearly seven months has been especially long and difficult for families, noting some will be kept apart as Canada prepares to celebrate their Thanksgiving holiday on Monday.
”Our constituents along the northern border in New York, in those communities that have a low rate of infection and a low number of cases, have been suffering from this seemingly endless ban on their ability to engage in legitimate cross-border travel according to common sense safety metrics,” Higgins wrote.