Point Roberts is among the top priorities according to a letter Washington State lawmakers sent to US president Joe Biden Monday regarding safely re-opening the Canada-US border.
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01), led seven members of the Washington congressional delegation in urging Biden to work with the Canadian government to create a plan, guided by public health data and science, to reopen the Canada-U.S. border. Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are scheduled to meet on Tuesday.
The letter includes permitting Point Roberts residents to cross through Canada and into the mainland US for non-essential travel.
It also advocates developing a policy for Canadian/US property owners to cross the border to maintain their properties, as well as American children living in border communities and enrolled in Canadian schools to cross into Canada to attend classes.
“Minimizing the risk presented by COVID-19 and prioritizing the safety of our communities remains of utmost importance while the U.S. and Canada work to overcome this public health crisis. However, as we approach one year of restricted travel, individuals, families, businesses, and communities on both sides of the border have been significantly impacted by these restrictions,” the lawmakers wrote.
The letter also included:
-Vaccinating and testing all necessary U.S. Customs and Border Protection staff to safely reopen travel.
- Reciprocate the Canadian travel exemptions to allow families and loved ones to reunite.
- Work with Canada to develop reciprocal access to transit through boundary waters.
- Upon the safe resumption of cruises in the United States, ensure that U.S. home-ported cruise ships required to stop in Canada are able to make technical or service stops if the CDC and Canadian health authorities agree that all protocols have been established and are being met by cruise ships and cruise ports.
The delegation also expressed concerns about the inconsistent application of border restrictions by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). The Canadian government grants individual discretion to CBSA agents in determining what is or is not an essential crossing. As a result, delegation offices have received numerous reports of constituents who were turned away from essential crossings and forced to go without medical care and food.
“We need Canada to apply border restrictions uniformly, no matter which CBSA agent meets an American at the border crossing,” the letter continues.
The border has been closed since March 2020 when the COVID-19 crisis began. The closure has been extended several times during the pandemic, currently through March 21, 2021.
Communities along the border have been significantly hit hard by the closure.
In 2018, nearly seven million trips were made into Whatcom County by visitors from Canada, with approximately one-quarter of these visitors spending an estimated $138 million in local stores and businesses. Crossings from Canada into Whatcom County were down 98 percent in 2020, severely restricting the economic activity and tax revenue of this border community.
The letter was also signed by Representatives Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Rick Larsen (WA-02), Kim Schrier (WA-08), Adam Smith (WA-09), and Marilyn Strickland (WA-10).