VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The U.S. government’s latest extension of non-essential travel measures at its land border crossings is causing further stress and anxiety for people in Canada waiting to visit loved ones south of the line.
For Coquitlam man Mynor Campos, it’s been 18 months since he’s seen his daughter and grandson. This latest announcement means he’ll have to wait even longer to see them.
“We’ve been seeing him crawling and then walking, and all we want to do now is just go down there and give him a big hug and probably cry with him, too,” Campos said, yearning to see his grandson in person.
“My grandson, Camilo, he was born in Seattle and he’s a premature baby — he was born at 25 weeks,” he told NEWS 1130, adding the last time they saw each other was in December 2019.
The U.S. is extending restrictions on non-essential travel at its land borders with Canada and Mexico until at least Aug. 21, according to a pre-published document on the U.S. Federal Register.
“Given the outbreak and continued transmission and spread of COVID-19 within the United States and globally, the Secretary has determined that the risk of continued transmission and spread of the virus associated with COVID-19 between the United States and Canada poses an ongoing ‘specific threat to human life or national interests,'” reads the document.
The decision was made despite Canada announcing earlier this week that it would start allowing Americans and U.S. permanent residents who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 entry into this country as of Aug. 9.
BREAKING NEWS: A document from @DHSgov appears to suggest the US border will remain closed until at least August 21st. Canada has announced fully vaccinated Americans can enter our country on August 9th. @NEWS1130 pic.twitter.com/ueES2utFTx
— Amanda Wawryk (@AmandaWawryk) July 21, 2021
While Campos says he understands the pandemic has been a difficult situation for everyone, including the U.S., he notes it’s hard, especially knowing that his family is just a few hours drive away.
“It is very emotional,” he explained, adding the month-by-month extensions have been particularly trying.
Campos says after Canada revealed it would be easing some of its restrictions on travel, his family had some hope the same would be done on the U.S. side. However, that quickly waned.
Devon Weber, who lives in Montreal, is the founder of Let Us Reunite, which is pushing for an easing of restrictions to ensure cross-border families can connect. She also takes issue with the rolling extensions.
“There’s no plan and I think that is what’s frustrating a lot of families like mine. There are no metrics to say, ‘Well if we hit this milestone, we’ll reopen the land border. If we get this many vaccinations, we’ll reopen the land border.’ They simply just roll it over,” she told NEWS 1130.
Weber notes the extension is until Aug. 21 — but that doesn’t mean restrictions will be lifted at that time. They could very well be extended yet again.
“It means that we’re not going to be able to see my family this summer, and if we do, it’s because my elderly parents are going to have to drive to Canada, because Canada is allowing fully vaccinated folks, as of August 9th, to enter — which is great. But it would be a lot easier for my husband and I to drive down to New York than for my elderly parents to come visit us here,” she explained.
Weber is an American who is married to a French-Canadian. They have a son who is almost two years old.
She says she moved to Canada about six weeks before the border was first closed in 2020 due to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.
“When we moved here, we never thought there would be an impediment to see my family in the States,” Weber explained.
While she and her son can drive back and forth, she says her husband cannot.
And while non-essential travel across the land border remains restricted, Canadians are still able to fly down to the U.S. with a negative COVID-19 test. That just adds to frustrations.
“I don’t know what science shows that it’s safer to fly on a crowded airplane than to drive across the border in your private vehicle,” Weber said.
Border experts have said the Biden administration is likely not ready to open the U.S.-Mexico border, given the existing refugee crisis there, and wants both frontiers opened at the same time.
“I would love to see Justin Trudeau asking for the same treatment, because — with all due respect — there could be a lot of American people with family in Canada, like my daughter, right? But at the same time, there’s a lot of Canadians who have family down there. If they are allowed to come to Canada, I don’t see why Canadians wouldn’t be allowed to go there,” Campos said.
“We have a lot of mixed emotions,” he said, wondering why sports teams are being given travel exemptions, but families are not.
There’s only two weeks between when Canada is set to start welcoming fully vaccinated Americans in and when the U.S. travel restrictions expire. However, two weeks can make a massive difference for some people, Weber notes.
“God forbid someone has a family emergency next week. God forbid something happens to my parents. My husband wouldn’t be able to drive across the border to take care of them,” she said, adding she’s heard from “hundreds of families who have had personal emergencies who have been denied at the land border.”
“Two weeks could mean the world to someone who’s trying to see their loved ones who are in trouble,” Weber said.
Border communities blast Biden
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene represents Washington State’s 1st District, which borders B.C. and includes the communities of Blaine, Bellingham, and Point Roberts.
The Democrat says her leader’s decision is “short-sighted and devastating” while applauding Canada’s decision to allow full vaccinated travellers from the U.S next month.
I’m deeply disappointed in the Biden administration’s decision to unilaterally extend the Canada-U.S. border closure another month. This means further suffering in our border communities in Whatcom County & elsewhere. pic.twitter.com/005qnLGIos
— Rep. Suzan DelBene (@RepDelBene) July 21, 2021
“Businesses and families in Whatcom County, particularly in Point Roberts, were praying this was the month the border would reopen. Continuing the border closure all but ensures more businesses will close and more livelihoods will be destroyed along the border,” she writes in a statement.
“Right now, Canadians can fly from Vancouver to Seattle but residents in the border town of White Rock cannot drive the short distance south across the border to Blaine. Instead of helping them build back better, we’re putting our border communities at a significant disadvantage. Canada on the other hand is showing leadership.”
The chair of the Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce, Brian Calder, shares the congresswoman’s frustration, saying with close to 90 per cent of the community fully vaccinated, there’s very little threat to Canadians coming south. Cross-border tourism is the lifeblood of the tiny enclave, which has a population of roughly 1,100.
“We have the best record in North America for COVID control and vaccination and we’re treated the worst. To me, it’s willful ignorance on the part of Washington D.C. I’ve never heard in the history of American presidents that someone as a president would allow one of their towns to be economically devastated, and I would submit economically annihilated without any regard whatsoever,” he says.
“Basically, I would say, ‘Joe if you don’t want us, give us to Delta, at least we’ll be treated humanely, not unnecessarily and willfully beaten up and ignored.”
-With files from Claire Fenton