Biden administration mum on why border with Canada remains closed

The Biden administration just threw the doors wide open for vaccinated foreigners flying into the U.S. as of November. But no such luck in resuming business as usual along the U.S. border with Canada, even though the Canadians approved reopening land crossings to vaccinated U.S. citizens back in early August.

Resorts, businesses and communities in Minnesota and other border states dependent on tourism and trade have been cut off from Canada for some 18 months now. But Reuters reports the economic hardship caused by the continuing restrictions hasn’t made a dent on whoever’s calling the shots at the White House.

The United States on Monday extended restrictions at its land borders with Canada and Mexico through Oct. 21 that bar nonessential travel such as tourism by foreigners despite Ottawa’s decision to open its border to vaccinated Americans.

Canada on Aug. 9 began allowing fully vaccinated U.S. visitors for nonessential travel. The United States has continued to extend the extraordinary restrictions on Canada and Mexico on a monthly basis since March 2020, when they were imposed to address the spread of COVID-19.

The latest monthly extension goes through Oct. 21, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters Monday.

The administration declined to comment on the clumsy timing of the announcement of the continuation of closed border crossings with Canada and Mexico in contrast with the relaxation of restrictions on air travelers from abroad. The reasons for keeping the border locked down a year and a half after the pandemic hit remain a mystery, according to the Fargo Forum.

The announcements mean that Canadians, who have already been able to fly to the U.S., will still not be able to drive across the border, even as overseas travelers can now more freely fly in. Zients declined to provide reporters a reason for the difference in air and land travel, but CNN noted the Biden administration wants to keep the situation on the north and south borders “symmetrical.”

“We do not have any updates to the land border policies at this point,” CNN quoted Zients as saying on Monday. “Title 19 is being extended for another month, as it is done on a monthly basis, through October 21, and as I said, no further updates on that policy at this point.”

Title 19 is the U.S Customs and Border Protection service’s rule about the closure to non-essential travel for Canadians and Mexicans.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has largely remained on the sidelines for the duration of the border controversy. But governors and federal elected officials from both parties in other border states have harshly criticized the Biden administration.  

Gov. Doug Burgum again expressed dismay that the border would remain closed. In July, Burgum, along with other other governors and Canadian provincial leaders, sent a letter to President Biden about reopening the border.

“Again without an explanation from the White House, it’s impossible to know what’s driving this baffling decision to extend these unnecessary restrictions on land-based travelers from Canada — when Canada’s vaccination rate is substantially higher than the United States’ — while making accommodations for foreign visitors traveling by air to our country,” Burgum said.

But Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s lackluster statement reveals how little influence even Democrats appear to have with the White House.

“I’ve long advocated to safely open up travel between the United States and Canada and I continue to work with officials on both sides to make this happen,” Klobuchar said. “I will keep the pressure on the Biden administration to make sure they understand the impact the closure is having on our border communities and why it’s critical for us to allow vaccinated Canadian travelers to cross the border. If they can come by plane, they should be allowed to come over land.”

Meantime, thousands of unvaccinated illegal immigrants flood unchecked into the U.S. from Mexico, even as the Biden administration prevents vaccinated Canadians from entering the country and spending their money.