Tester Pushes Biden Administration to Treat Northern Border Crossings Equally, Open Border to all Fully Vaccinated Travelers

Senator: “The extension of the ban on land border crossings has significant impacts on states and communities along the Canadian border.”

Following an announcement that the Biden Administration will allow fully vaccinated travelers to enter the U.S. by air next month while continuing to restrict “nonessential travel” across the land border indefinitely, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is questioning the Administration’s medical justifications for the uncoordinated reopening and urging it to fully open the northern border to all vaccinated travelers immediately.

Tester and a bipartisan group of his northern border state colleagues wrote a letter to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky asking for clarification on the Administration’s medical justification for the continued ban on northern border crossings by land but not by air, noting the continued ban is hurting families and businesses across Montana.

“The extension of the ban on land border crossings has significant impacts on states and communities along the Canadian border,” wrote Tester and his colleagues. “Before the pandemic, Canadians regularly crossed the border to shop at small businesses, visit ski resorts and recreational areas, and see friends and family. The restrictions on land crossings have made these interactions next to impossible, putting enormous strain on border communities.”

Last week, the Biden Administration announced that starting in November, fully vaccinated travelers from other countries will be permitted to enter the United States via air travel if they present proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days prior to their departure to the United States, while at the same time extending the “non-essential” travel restrictions on foreign travelers entering by car on a month-to-month basis.

Since March 2020, travel across the two nations’ border has been severely restricted by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in significant disruptions to Montana communities, businesses and families. In light of progress in COVID-19 vaccinations in both countries, Canada opened its border to vaccinated Americans in August, but the U.S. government continues to extend its ban on non-essential travel from Canada on a month-to-month basis, a move Tester has denounced.

“These economic and personal sacrifices appear to no longer be necessary now that vaccines are widely available,” Tester and his colleagues continued. “Canada has a high rate of vaccination with 68 percent of all Canadians and 78 percent of Canadians over the age of 12 having been fully vaccinated. Accordingly, we ask that you clarify whether there is any medical justification for continuing to impose more stringent restrictions on Canadians entering the United States via car than on Canadians entering via plane. We support efforts to curb the transmission of COVID-19 and appreciate the tireless, ongoing work being done to keep Americans safe and healthy. That said, we also share the concerns of our constituents and communities along the U.S.-Canada border who are being impacted by the decision to continue restricting non-essential travel at land border crossings.”

Tester has been calling for the border to fully re-open since May, writing in a letter to the Biden Administration “each day that passes without resolution is a hit to family farmers and ranchers, small businesses, and the rural communities along the border,” and urging them to work with their Canadian counterparts to quickly and safely open the border. He followed up on that in July with a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas pressing the Administration to coordinate with the Canadian reopening in a “safe, fair, and efficient manner.”

Montana shares a 545 mile border with Canada and is home to many border towns whose economies rely on Canadian trade and commerce throughout the year. According to the U.S. Trade Representative, Montana exported $692 million in goods to Canada in 2018, representing 42 percent of the state’s total goods exports.

Tester’s letter is available HERE.