The White House on Monday waived some of its international travel restrictions but imposed a controversial ban on travel at the Canada-US land border, even declaring that by early November, it would Will allow foreign air visitors who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
It was the first clear sign in months that US President Joe Biden’s administration is preparing to ease and streamline the patchwork of travel restrictions that were first imposed in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic, when Donald Trump was still was the President.
But the ongoing ban on recreational travelers driving from Canada and Mexico – now extended for the 19th month to October 21 – was nothing less than a slap in the face to some.
“Canadians should be outraged, and for good reason,” said New York Congressman Brian Higgins, who has been fighting for months to persuade the White House to ease restrictions.
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Maintaining a travel ban at the land border undermines the same public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines that the Biden administration is working so hard to persuade Americans to embrace, he said.
“The White House is in conflict with itself, and in conflict with the science they support and inspire others to follow,” Higgins said in an interview. “Their legitimacy and credibility have been suitably hit hard on this issue. The White House is not speaking in unison.”
The new rules replace Trump-era travel restrictions that recently restricted US visits to the United Kingdom, the European Union, China, India, Iran, Ireland, Brazil and South Africa. Passengers must show proof of vaccination prior to boarding, as well as a negative COVID-19 test taken no later than three days before departure.
In that respect, they are similar to the requirements Canada began to enforce over the summer – initially on Canadians returning, then on US citizens and permanent residents, then finally on all foreign nationals earlier this month.
Air travel from Canada to the US has never been banned, and it is not yet clear whether the new vaccination rules will go into effect for travelers to Canada. Rules at the Canada-US border have also allowed trade and essential workers to move seamlessly between the two countries.
The second burning question is whether Canadians who have received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which has never been approved for use in the US, will meet the eligibility test. Federal officials say they are pressuring the Biden administration to make sure those people are allowed in.
About 3.9 million people in Canada have received mixed doses of COVID-19 vaccines, of which an estimated 1.4 million have received a dose of AstraZeneca, data from the Public Health Agency of Canada indicated. More than 223,000 people have been fully vaccinated from AstraZeneca.
“It’s all part of the process,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday when asked about specific vaccine requirements, as well as whether land border restrictions will be amended or eased.
“At this time we don’t have any updates or predictions, but obviously we’re continuing to consider – as evidenced by our announcement today – how we can return to the place of travel and people to move out of the country.” country, including our land borders. ”
More stringent testing and quarantine requirements will also be put in place for unvaccinated travelers when the new rules go into effect in November.
The US is apparently ready to allow people into the country by air rather than land – the ability of airlines to handle the cumbersome task of screening passengers and ensuring they meet essential health requirements But they give evidence of importance.
“It’s incredibly disappointing, it confuses logic, and there’s little to give,” said Scotty Greenwood, president and CEO of the DC-based Canadian American Business Council.
“I don’t understand the policy logic of discriminating with Canadians on the basis of their proximity to them. If we want to allow Canadians to fly and now we want to allow other countries to fly, we Canadians Why not allow people to drive? It doesn’t make any sense.”
A new batch of US Senate Democrats, including Michigan Senators Debbie Stabeno and Gary Peters, New York Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and New Hampshire Senators Jean Shaheen, wrote Friday to urge Biden to lift the ban.
The letter, signed by New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Angus, read, “We believe that fully vaccinated Canadians will be able to travel safely into the United States through land ports of entry.” should be allowed.” King, independent of Maine.
“We urge you to remove these restrictions before October, provide a plan to reopen land ports of entry and appoint an inter-agency lead on US-Canadian border restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. “
Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Meyerkas, whose department oversees the US Border Agency, acknowledged growing dismay during a National Press Club event in Washington last week.
“We expected that by now, we would have opened travel through the ports of entry, but sadly, due to the delta version, we have been delayed to do so,” Meyerkas said.
He said the restrictions now include language that makes it possible to relax or remove the ban completely before the start of the next 30-day window.
“Just because we’ve renewed it for 30 days doesn’t mean the ban will last for another 30 days.”
There is also the US-Mexico border, where a growing immigration crisis is complicating matters. Meyerkas himself traveled to the South Texas region on Monday, where more than 14,000 migrants from Haiti are gathering, with more arriving daily, in hopes of winning asylum in the US.
“We are only left to speculate about what other unrelated issues might be at work here – is this the southern border? Possibly,” Higgins said.
“But they have to be able to manage both. They are very, very different, with both opportunities and challenges. But the northern frontier is very different from the southern border.”
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