Rep. Stefanik seeking to end requirements at Northern Border for essential travelers

New England

Alexandria Bay Port of Entry, November 6, 2021 (WWTI/ Isabella Colello)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWTI) — A local lawmaker is seeking to end travel requirements that require vaccinations for essential travelers.

On Wednesday, a letter led by Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) was sent to U.S. President Joe Biden, urging to drop travel requirements at the U.S.-Canada border. The letter specifically asked the president to abandon COVID-19 vaccination requirements for essential travelers, which is set to begin in January 2022.

According to Rep. Stefanik, these requirements could affect the United State’s supply chain and North Country economies.

“The North Country’s economic partnership with Canada plays a major role in our local economy and in supporting our nation’s supply chain, but imposing more requirements on cross-border travel would only make our nation’s current supply chain worse,” Stefanik said in a press release. “Our communities have suffered enough from Joe Biden’s prolonged closure of the Northern Border, and it is unnecessary to impose new restrictions that further disrupt travel.”

The letter sent to President Biden also referred to back when nonessential was restricted. The lawmakers said that “The Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that maintaining essential travel throughout the pandemic was necessary so that such restrictions did ‘not interrupt legitimate trade'” between U.S. and Canada.

Essential travelers are defined at the Northern Border by the Department of Homeland Security includes citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States, individuals engage in official government travel, diplomatic travel or military-related travel, as well as those traveling for the following reasons:

  • Medical purposes
  • To attend educations institutions
  • To work in the United States
  • For emergency response and public health purposes
  • Engaged in lawful cross- border trade, including truck drivers

Non-essential travel was also opened on November 6. These travelers remain required to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

Along with Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, this letter was signed by 12 other members of Congress. This included Representatives Bill Huizenga (R-MI), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Jack Bergman (R-MI), Pete Stauber (R-MN), Chris Jacobs (R-NY), Matt Rosendale (R-MT), Russ Fulcher (R-ID), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Claudia Tenney (R-NY), Tom Tiffany (R-WI), Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Glenn Grothman (R-WI).

The full letter can be read below:

Dear President Biden, 

We write to you expressing our deep concerns over your Administration’s plan to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for essential travelers entering the United States starting in January 2022. Such a requirement will have significant negative impacts on essential cross-border trade and exacerbate the severe supply chain disruptions hindering our economic recovery. 

As you know, when the U.S. and Canada mutually agreed to restrict non-essential travel across the U.S. – Canada border in March 2020, essential travel was permitted to continue without restriction. In establishing and extending the restrictions on non-essential travel, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that maintaining essential travel throughout the pandemic was necessary so that such restrictions did “not interrupt legitimate trade between the two nations or disrupt critical supply chains that ensure food, fuel, medicine, and other materials reach individuals on both sides of the border.” While the number of COVID-19 infections have fluctuated since the onset of the pandemic, we are not aware of any indication or evidence that individuals engaged in essential cross-border travel have had a substantive effect on COVID-19 transmission. 

Our nation is already facing the most significant supply chain disruptions in generations. An ill-conceived policy that would require essential travelers to be vaccinated to enter the United States will only exacerbate our supply chain crisis. As you know, the large majority of goods transiting North America are transported via overland trucking. A vaccine mandate for essential travel will be disruptive to millions of individuals in the trucking industry alone, as well as countless others involved in emergency response and other critical functions. 

Americans have experienced extraordinary hardships from the sluggish economic recovery, the skyrocketing price of everyday goods due to inflation, and continued supply chain disruptions. As President, you have the power to alleviate these burdens on the American people and ensure that the policies you enact do not worsen the already difficult conditions for millions of citizens. Instituting this vaccine mandate for essential cross-border travel will have profound negative consequences on millions of Americans, as well as on our economy. 

We urge you to abandon this effort to institute such a mandate and work with the Canadian government to ensure no further damage is done to our cross-border economic partnership. After over 20 months of pandemic-related restrictions, it is past time to facilitate a return to normal cross-border travel between the U.S. and Canada. 

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