There are two things most New Yorkers haven’t seen much of lately:
1) Republicans and Democrats agreeing on an issue.
Travelers and business operators wishing for the full resumption of travel between the U.S. and our neighbor to the north are hoping the first one leads to the other.
The border was closed on both sides to all but non-essential travel in March 2020 at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.
Last month, Canada finally began allowing some non-essential travel from the U.S., easing restrictions for the first time in 17 months. But on Monday, the Biden administration extended the U.S. border closure for non-essential travel for another month, until Oct. 21.
The continued travel restrictions have raised the ire of both Republicans and Democrats in states all along the 5,500-mile-long border, including New York — creating a rare point of agreement in the country’s highly polarized political environment.
When else would you expect to see Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik fight strongly for the same result?
The closure is not just preventing tourists from enjoying a pleasurable visit to one another’s country.
It’s also costing the U.S. economy about $1.5 billion per month in lost business revenue. Particularly hard-hit is western New York, which is taking an $855 million annual hit thanks to a shutdown of travel.
Small businesses on both sides have been crippled by the restrictions, and Gillibrand said the continued closure is jeopardizing the health and safety of New Yorkers.
Elected officials want the U.S. to lift the restrictions sooner than Oct. 21 and to create a public reopening plan for Canadians who have been fully vaccinated.
The Biden administration’s continued holdout on lifting travel restrictions seems to run counter to its announcement, also issued on Monday, that it would be allowing fully-vaccinated international air travelers to enter the U.S.
And there currently are no U.S. restrictions on air or ground travel among states, even those with high infection rates.
Yet the same opportunity to travel freely is not being afforded to citizens of the U.S. and Canada who drive between the two countries.
Certainly, we don’t want to promote the international spread of the coronavirus, particularly as cases of the delta variant continue to surge in the U.S.
But if the U.S. can ease restrictions on international air travel, there’s no reason — with proper precautions, protocols and documentation of vaccination — that we can’t loosen some of the Canada-U.S. border restrictions to help businesses and residents that depend on cross-border vehicle travel for their livelihood and enjoyment.
Republicans and Democrats have both made a strong case.
Why isn’t the Biden administration listening to them?