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US land border closed to Canadians, as rules change for foreign air passengers

Land border crossing restrictions to Canada and Mexico, which have been in place since March 2020, were set to expire on Sept. 21. According to a Sept. 20 Reuters report, restrictions on Canadians crossing into the U.S. on non-essential business will be extended until Oct. 21, despite Canada reopening its border to vaccinated Americans on Aug. 9.

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The border crossing at Pembina, N.D., on Aug. 9, 2021.
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GRAND FORKS — The United States has extended its land border closure with Canada and Mexico for another 30 days.

Land border crossing restrictions to Canada and Mexico, which have been in place since March 2020, were set to expire Tuesday, Sept. 21. According to a Sept. 20 Reuters report, restrictions on Canadians crossing into the U.S. on non-essential business will be extended until Oct. 21, despite Canada reopening its border to vaccinated Americans on Aug. 9.

The land border closure extension was announced as the nation prepares to allow fully vaccinated air travelers into the country, beginning in early November. According to a Monday CNN report, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said the November timeline will allow airlines time to adapt to the new regulations.

The announcements mean that Canadians, who have already been able to fly to the U.S., will still not be able to drive across the border, even as overseas travelers can now more freely fly in. Zients declined to provide reporters a reason for the difference in air and land travel, but CNN noted the Biden administration wants to keep the situation on the north and south borders “symmetrical.”

"We do not have any updates to the land border policies at this point,” CNN quoted Zients as saying on Monday. “Title 19 is being extended for another month, as it is done on a monthly basis, through October 21, and as I said, no further updates on that policy at this point.”

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Title 19 is the U.S Customs and Border Protection service’s rule about the closure to non-essential travel for Canadians and Mexicans.

“I will continue to make the case to the administration that the U.S. can and should safely re-open its land border with Canada to trade and travel, just as we have done for air travel,” said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. “Extending these restrictions needlessly burdens our border communities and disrupts our economy.”

Gov. Doug Burgum again expressed dismay that the border would remain closed. In July, Burgum, along with other other governors and Canadian provincial leaders, sent a letter to President Biden about reopening the border.

“Again without an explanation from the White House, it’s impossible to know what’s driving this baffling decision to extend these unnecessary restrictions on land-based travelers from Canada — when Canada’s vaccination rate is substantially higher than the United States’ — while making accommodations for foreign visitors traveling by air to our country,” Burgum said. “We won’t relent in our efforts to press the Biden administration, as we’ve done repeatedly including in our July letter with four border states and provinces, to lift these needless restrictions that continue to hurt communities and citizens on both sides of the border as well as our retail and tourism businesses that rely on Canadian travelers.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said she will keep advocating for the border to reopen, and wonders why Canadians can fly into the country, but not drive.

“I’ve long advocated to safely open up travel between the United States and Canada and I continue to work with officials on both sides to make this happen," Klobuchar said. "I will keep the pressure on the Biden administration to make sure they understand the impact the closure is having on our border communities and why it’s critical for us to allow vaccinated Canadian travelers to cross the border. If they can come by plane, they should be allowed to come over land.”

Simon Resch, who owns the Duty Free Shop in Emerson, Manitoba, said he is disappointed by the extension, but not surprised.

“We were expecting this once again, but (there is) positive news in the non-U.S. citizen travel announcement for November,” Resch said. “The land border rules hopefully will change together with those. That’s the hope, anyway.”

Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at akurtz@gfherald.com, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

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