By Bob Waite
Ottawa – On August 9, 2021, Canada began allowing entry to American citizens and permanent residents currently residing in the United States who have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days prior to entering the country.
The United States, on the other hand, has yet to reciprocate. Canadians continue to be barred from crossing the land border. This despite the fact that Canadian vaccination rates are significantly higher than those of their American counterparts.
So what gives?
In a word, politics.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the border opening not long before calling an election. There seems little doubt that he heeded calls from the tourist and hospitality industries to open things up before the summer slipped completely away.
Politics was also undoubtedly behind the American decision to keep the border shut tight – although it is impossible to get an official U.S. government spokesperson to confirm this.
But think about it. If President Biden opens the land border to Canadians, he would be under tremendous pressure from his own Hispanic caucus to also open up the Mexican border. To fail to do so might be seen as discriminatory, even racist.
On the other hand, if the administration did open both borders, the criticism from Republicans, particularly those affiliated with former President Donald Trump, would be withering.
Beset by Border Problems
Biden has been beset with problems along the Mexican border almost from the day he was inaugurated. Rumors spread among Central American, Colombian, and Venezuelan migrants, in particular, that a change in administrations would bring an easing of entry requirements.
Despite official denials, the rumors have persisted.
Most recently, refugees from Haiti gathering on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande have only exacerbated the situation.
Caught in the cross-fire -– potentially for the second year in a row –- are hundreds of thousands of Canadian “snowbirds.” These are folks who escape the Great White North to winter in Florida, along the Gulf Coast, or in Arizona, California, and New Mexico.
These seasonal visitors spend hundreds of millions of dollars at restaurants, hotels, or RV parks.
They even have their own advocacy group, the Canadian Snowbird Association (CSA).
The CSA’s spokesperson, Evan Rachkovsky, told media this week that “Canadian snowbirds are itching to return to the U.S., but the current ban is hampering their plans.
“As over 70 per cent of Canadian snowbirds travel to the United States in their Canadian vehicles, the ongoing closure of the U.S. land border continues to cause frustration amongst these travelers,” Rachkovsky said.
In a strange loophole, Canadians are allowed to fly into the U.S. This has been true since the ban was imposed in April of 2020. But, according to Rachkovsky, for many Canadians that is impractical because of the costs involved.
There has been persistent political pressure on Biden from politicians from states along the U.S.–Canada border –- including influential Democratic U.S. Senators such as Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters of Michigan; Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire; and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota –- to open things up.
They and other lawmakers sent the President a letter with that message just this week.
For the moment, though, the border remains closed until at least October 21. That leaves a lot of snowbirds on the roost –- and a lot of RV spaces, hotel rooms, and restaurant tables sitting empty.
Bob Waite reported on politics for Pacific News Service and subsequently served as press secretary to Senators Ed Brooke and Bob Dole. He writes frequently on travel and oscillates between Ottawa and Boston thanks to dual citizenship.
Top Image: Where are the snowbirds? Photo from Visit Florida
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Biden should at least allow snowbirds with property in the US to cross the border. We pay taxes on our properties there. — Judy McDonnell firstname.lastname@example.org
Reply: Good point.
I believe it will open towards the end of Nov. Biden has mandated that all border agents be double vaccinated by Nov 22. Possible! — Laurie Collins email@example.com
Reply: I suspect you’re right, and very possibly sooner.