Senators say Recently-Extended Land-Border Restrictions Hurt Northern Border Economy

WASHINGTON D.C. [09/29/21]—U.S. Senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) are strongly urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to end Canadian land-border restrictions that are devastating businesses and communities that depend on Canadian travelers. This month, the United States extended restrictions on nonessential land travel from Canada to the United States until October 21.

The Senators, in a letter Tuesday to Secretary Blinken and Secretary Mayorkas, said that the restrictions are having a catastrophic economic impact on northern border communities. They are also creating confusion because despite the land-border restrictions, Canadians have been able to travel by air to the United States for months. Canada has allowed vaccinated Americans to enter over the land border for non-essential travel since August.

“Cities, towns and Tribes in northern Minnesota depend on cross-border travel to support their economies and way of life. Due to the indefinite travel restrictions currently in place, border community businesses continue to struggle 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic,” the senators wrote. “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. 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. They have had to make untenable decisions to survive, including using their American Rescue Plan Act funds for stabilization instead of recovery. One more month of closures will further the crisis for Grand Portage Band.”

You can read a copy of the letter here or below.

September 27, 2021

The Honorable Antony J. Blinken

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20520

The Honorable Alejandro Mayorkas

Secretary of Homeland Security

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

245 Murray Lane, SW

Washington, D.C. 20528

Dear Secretary Blinken and Secretary Mayorkas:

We are writing today to express our deep disappointment in the decision to extend land-border restrictions on nonessential travel from Canada into the United States until October 21st. We strongly urge you to reconsider this decision as soon as possible, and to consider the economic impact of the continued closure on businesses in northern Minnesota, Tribal Nations, and other northern border communities.

Cities, towns and Tribes in northern Minnesota depend on cross-border travel to support their economies and way of life. Due to the indefinite travel restrictions currently in place, border community businesses continue to struggle 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic. 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. 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. They have had to make untenable decisions to survive, including using their American Rescue Plan Act funds for stabilization instead of recovery. One more month of closures will further the crisis for Grand Portage Band.

The apparent disconnect between the policies for air travel and land travel has caused significant confusion and frustration in border communities. On Monday, September 21st, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would extend the land-border travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada until October 21st, despite the fact that Canadians traveling via air have been permitted to enter the U.S. for months. In addition, Canada began allowing vaccinated American tourists to enter over the land border for non-essential travel on August 9, 2021. Today, 85.77% of the eligible Canadian population has received at least one dose of the COVID19 vaccination, and 78.85% of the eligible Canadian population is fully vaccinated.

We understand and support the need to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and reduce the transmission and threat of the virus. However, we urge you to reconsider the decision to extend the land-border closures until October 21st, given the severe economic impact on border communities. We strongly urge you to reopen the land border to Canadian travel as soon and safely as possible.

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