UPDATE: Day 454 U.S./Canada border closure

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Canadian public safety minister Bill Blair announced in a tweet Friday morning that the prohibition against non-essential travel into Canada was being extended until July 21. He said that further details regarding travel restrictions on fully vaccinated Canadians would be released on Monday, June 21.

In response, New York Congressman Brian Higgins had this to say: “There’s no other way to say it: another month’s delay is bullshit.” Higgins has been a strong proponent of reopening the border and is co-chair of the Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group On Continued Extension Of Border Restrictions. The group released the following statement:

“Millions of Americans and Canadians are counting on our governments to work together to reach an agreement that provides a clear roadmap for reopening the border between our two nations. The lack of transparency surrounding these negotiations is a disservice to our constituents and the millions of residents on both sides of the border waiting to see their loved ones, visit their property, and renew business ties. While the arrival of vaccines in record time has been a modern marvel, the inability of the U.S. and Canadian governments to reach an agreement on alleviating border restrictions or aligning additional essential traveler classes is simply unacceptable.”

The U.S. has yet to release a statement regarding the extension. There is, as yet, no notice published in the federal register and will not be until Monday due to the new federal holiday. Such notices are required to appear in the register before renewed border restrictions can go into effect. The notice must be published no later than 9 p.m. Pacific Time or the travel restriction will expire.

The Canadian government plans to release a revised version of its ArriveCan app that will allow incoming travelers to upload their vaccination status to it. Supposedly, all persons entering Canada are required to use the ArriveCan app but enforcement of the rule for land travelers has been spotty, at best due to its buggy implementation. For example, it has no provision for travelers who are simply transiting from one part of the states to another part, such as Point Roberts. It appears to blank out required information forcing transiting travelers to provide their address each time they cross despite the fact that their travel identification, e.g. NEXUS, enhanced driver’s license, etc., should present that information automatically. Canada Border Services Agency officers had earlier in the year been telling travelers they needed to start using the app but they have stopped doing so for well over a month with some actively disparaging it.

Numerous news reports have quoted American and Canadian citizens saying they felt like they were being held hostage by governmental inaction on reopening the border.

Interestingly, Blaine immigration attorney Len Saunders pointed out, the Americans who were held during the Iranian hostage crisis were released on the 454th day of imprisonment, meaning as of tomorrow, the border closure will be longer than one of America’s most fraught and emotional international crises. “How ironic is that,” asked Saunders.

“I’d be shocked if the border doesn’t open on June 22. Shocked” Saunders said previously, when asked June 15 for an update on the border. Saunders was the source of the May 25 story in the All Point Bulletin that broke the news nationwide that the U.S. was preparing to open the border on June 22 on a unilateral basis, if necessary.

That story related how he had been told by a number of CBP officials that while there was no “official” directive, the Blaine sector had been told to get ready to open the gates on June 22. Since that time, there have been significant indications that preparations are in full swing, including changes in traffic routing and a bevy of new officers being trained in the inspection booths. The ubiquitous and obligatory zapping of vehicles, drivers and passengers by the drive-through X-ray machine has also stopped with the vast majority of traffic now being directed to the nearest exit.

Still, no “official” word from Washington, D.C. Typically, the decision to extend the border closure is made just a few days before the order is scheduled to expire at midnight on the 21st of each month. The announcements have been made as early as the 12th and as late as the 20th, just one day before the deadline.

Meanwhile, in Canada the drumbeat calling for the border’s reopening is running up the tympanic scale. The Vancouver Sun reported that Canadian Chamber of Commerce CEO Perrin Beatty said, “We should not have to wait until next week to know whether or not the border is going to be reopened. There should be a clear, coherent plan with well-understood criteria for what are the conditions under which the border will be reopened and how it will be staged. We should have had a plan long before now.”

According to the Sun, the Business Council of Canada CEO Goldy Hyder was also frustrated by the lack of planning. “It’s really disappointing that only now are there working groups thinking about this. We knew this day was going to come. What we’re not accepting is the idea that we don’t have a right to know what the plan is, we don’t know what the benchmarks are.”

Canadian business leaders have pointed out that the federal government’s own Covid-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel recommended in April that fully vaccinated travelers be allowed to enter the country without being subject to quarantine requirements as long as they presented proof of vaccination.

Prime minister Justin Trudeau has been vague about when the border would be reopened and what conditions would need to be set in order to allow the border to be opened, saying any decision would be “science-based.” The first group of travelers would have to be fully vaccinated, he said.

In the meantime, the days of the border closure continue to add up, 454 days and counting.

This story will be updated as it develops.

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