Biden admin prolonging ‘suffering’ with continued Canada border closure, lawmakers say

Canadian tourists accounted for 21.5 million "overnight arrivals" and spent an average of $980 in the U.S. in 2018.

The Roseau–South Junction border crossing on the border of Minnesota and Canada. (Lorie Shaull/Flickr)

The Biden administration is facing bipartisan calls from lawmakers to lift all restrictions on trade and travel into the United States from Canada.

Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota and five other House Republicans recently sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that requests an “immediate report” on a “plan for operationalizing new border procedures.”

Two other Republican representatives from Minnesota joined Emmer in signing the letter, Pete Stauber and Michelle Fischbach, while Reps. Kelly Armstrong, Elise Stefanik, and Chris Jacobs appended their signatures as well.

Since all six representatives hail from northern border states, they say they are “especially concerned” about President Joe Biden’s decision to extend the United States’ border closure with Canada through at least Oct. 21.

“Currently, Customs and Border Protection does not appear to have a plan in place to execute a safe reopening without causing tremendous delays at land ports of entry,” the representatives wrote. “This is a major problem for members of the commercial trade sector, who need to know whether the DHS will assign appropriate resources to maintain adequate levels of security and efficiency so that LPOEs can operate successfully.”

The letter adds that the continued border closure impacts “all Americans,” not just those who live in northern border states or who habitually make use of the border to trade goods. Canadian tourists, according to the letter, accounted for 21.5 million “overnight arrivals” and spent an average of $980 in the U.S. in 2018.

“The movement of people, for tourism or other forms of discretionary travel, is also a major economic driver. Ninety percent of the Canadian population lives within one hundred miles of the border, making our country Canada’s largest inbound travel market,” the letter reads.

Naturally, the extended border closure delays the shipment of traded goods from Canada and grinds tourism from Canada to a halt. The letter says $1.7 billion in products cross the border into the U.S. each day.

“Any further delays at LPOE checkpoints upon reopening will only continue to further harm those who have already suffered over the past 16 months — including not just the business community, but also those who have been unable to visit friends, family, and loved ones for far too long,” it concludes.

Reps. Fischbach and Stauber provided their own statements slamming the border closure after the letter was sent, per a press release.

“Biden’s continued border closure ignores science, logic, and the economic hardship of border communities across the country,” Fischbach said. “I call on President Biden to urgently respond to the needs of communities along the northern border and ensure land ports of entry are adequately resourced so regular commerce can return once again.”

“The border communities we represent are unfairly suffering as the [Biden administration] continues to prevent non-essential land travel all while allowing air travel,” Stauber said. “Hopefully … the administration will recognize the error of their ways and end these restrictions in October.”

Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith have also written their own letter to DHS Secretary Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken that calls for an end to the Canadian border closure. Their focus was on the tribal nations in northern Minnesota who are acutely affected by the restrictions.

“Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, one of eleven Tribal Nations in Minnesota, heavily rely on tourism brought over by Canadians and have seen their revenues down 70-80% below average,” the senators wrote. “As you know, Tribal Nations do not have a tax base due to land-trust structure, and revenue from their enterprises is their lifeline. With the continued border closure, Grand Portage Band remains in an economic crisis.”