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Anger builds across New York as U.S. extends travel restrictions to Canada

The Canadian Flag next to the U.S. flag
File Photo

Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) said the Biden Administration may have some problems getting legislation passed, as long as U.S. Northern Border is closed to most Canadians and there is no explanation as to why.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday announced the extension of its COVID-19 restrictions on travel by land from Canada to the U.S. until at least Aug. 21.

"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,” read a rule published in the U.S. Federal Register. "These restrictions go into effect at 12 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on July 22, 2021 and will remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. EDT on August 21, 2021, unless amended or rescinded prior to that time."

The move came as no surprise to Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, as he was warned by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas earlier this week that the U.S. would not be following Canada's lead to reopen the border to vaccinated travelers on Aug. 9.

The decision is being met with anger on both sides of the border, as a renewed cross-border partnership issued by U.S. President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau back in February promised a science-based, coordinated approach to re-opening the border.

In a written statement following the announcement, U.S. Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer said the Biden Adminstration's failure to reciprocate relaxing of restrictions by Canada jepordizes "an already tenuous recovery for thousands of businesses, families and communities across Upstate New York. It is critical for the United States to level the playing field and create a uniform system, following the science and data, to safely – and finally-- reopen the border for those vaccinated, and I will do everything in my power to ensure that happens as swiftly as possible.""

During a news conference, Higgins pointed to Biden's promise to reopen the border and said he is "infuriated" that the U.S. border isn't opened to most people, except professional athletes and fliers.

"I'm a member of the House Budget Committee, I have leverage as a result. I'm a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. I have leverage as a result. This administration wants legislation passed? Okay. Give us justification for your decision," Higgins said. "So there is leverage and we will persist and we will keep trying."

The congressional representative also noted that the Democratic majority in the House is fragile and tiny.

"You have to use it to maximum effectiveness and I will consider every option I have available to me," he said. "So we will communicate that clearly to the White House and votes are important around here and they're important to this administration. So I will use the tools that I have available to me, constitutionally."

Border experts said the Biden administration is likely not ready to open the U.S.-Mexico border, given the existing refugee crisis, and wants both frontiers opened at the same time.

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Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.