Get in line, Canada, the U.S. has bigger problems than its closed border

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WASHINGTON – There’s really no news about the status of the COVID-19 restrictions on Canada’s entry into the US, which is only noteworthy given that people had expected a change so far and that hasn’t happened.

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What’s up?

And as I wrote on Tuesday, a disappointment for many, including dozens of members of the US Congress, is that no proper explanation has been given in more than a year about the rationale for the current policy. Any Canadian can fly into the US, but most – other than those considered “essential” and those with visa status – are not allowed to cross over land borders. How does that make sense?

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That’s certainly not the case for Milton resident Grant Davidson, who accompanied his sons to a family funeral in America. They are dual citizens, but that is not the case.

“I put my luggage in his car, went to the airport, and two flights later to Midland, MI,” he wrote. “After about an hour, my sons got into the car and I took my belongings out of their car. When I could go with them in the car for free for the same amount of time, it cost me about $500 to fly.”

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US Customs officials and the White House have neither explained the reasoning nor the reasons that are preventing them from changing the policy.

Many experts, members of Congress from both political parties, people working on border issues and advocates advocating for them say that they are not getting clear information officially or unofficially. With that caveat, some will nonetheless share their impressions of what is really driving this decision-making process and what might change it.

Three explanations, possibly overlapping, reflect a consensus about the people I’ve spoken with:

1. Mexico: During the pandemic, per capita COVID-19 deaths in Mexico have been three times higher than in Canada, and Mexico has relied on vaccines from Russia and China that are not approved in the US. In addition, America’s southern politics land limits have always been A lightning rod happens as the immigration and refugee fights that dominate American partisan politics when they flare up, as it is this year.

For reasons of both public health and political optics, the reopening of the land border for Mexico is a potentially explosive issue.

So why does it have anything to do with us? Because the current border policy applies to both Mexico and Canada. Biden’s administration is very reluctant to change that, at least partly because it doesn’t want to accuse Mexicans of racism for preferring Canadians.

2. Logistics: Americans are expected to implement new vaccine and testing requirements for international air travelers within a month, and it has long been expected that they could also be tied to the reopening of the land border. But how to do this – which vaccines to accept or not, what will be sufficient proof of vaccination, what tests and timelines will be acceptable – is not straightforward, and there is debate about how to “operate” such a policy. has been

Of course, Canada has those requirements for Americans, and it has functioned as smoothly as you might expect. I’ve heard speculation that US border officials doubt that Canada’s standard is in effect – for example, Canada accepts cards with drugstore workers’ notes strewn on them as proof of vaccination, And test results are usually printed using a general laser printer.

There is also the issue of accepting vaccines approved in Canada, but not in the US, such as AstraZeneca – a decision further complicated if Biden expects a similar policy on the Mexican border, where more vaccines that are outright rejected by the US Has been in use.

Many think these concerns can be resolved with new international air travel policies to be announced soon, designed with European and other travelers in mind, and with acceptable vaccines, testing and proofing. A standard should be set for Such airport standards can also be applied to land crossings.

3. Distraction: If Congress cannot break the impasse, the US will face defaults on its loans by the end of the month. President Joe Biden’s core domestic economic policy is at the center of a bitter fight within his own party. And the investigation into the attempted January 6 uprising continues while Americans struggle to improve or protect election processes to ensure the integrity of their democracy.

As I’ve said before, when several rooms in your house are on fire, you don’t spend much time thinking about inviting your friends over for dinner. Opening up Canada’s border isn’t particularly controversial, but it’s not a face-to-face issue for most Americans. A political veteran I spoke to recently suggested that such issues require “a munchkin or cinema”—a senator or block of members of Congress that will hold the rest of the government’s priorities hostage until They don’t make their way. Right now there is no such thing on the Canadian border.

Some thought the issue’s priority might have changed when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer – possibly the second most powerful Democrat in Washington after Biden – called for action in July, but he has remained silent ever since. Schumer represents New York State, where border closures are a real source of economic and cultural crisis, and he is up for re-election in 2022. If he decided to make it a priority, it would likely end up at the top of Biden’s crowd-to-do list, as Schumer is the key to implementing the rest of Biden’s agenda. But because she’s so important to that agenda, she’s also busy trying to manage all those house-to-house issues.

Edward Keenan is Starr’s Washington bureau chief. He covers American politics and current affairs. Reach him via email: [email protected]

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