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WA lawmakers call on Biden to make reopening US/Canada border ‘immediate priority’

The Peace Arch border crossing in Blaine, WA. (Daveynin, Flickr Creative Commons)

Washington state’s Congressional delegation issued a letter to President Biden this week, calling on him prioritize the reopening of the U.S./Canada border.

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Currently, travelers — including those moving through the border crossing in Blaine, Wash. — must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test, and must be making what’s considered to be “an essential trip.”

The problem there, Washington lawmakers say, is twofold. First, what defines an “essential trip” is largely up to the discretion of officials processing vehicles at the Canadian border. Second, communities like Point Roberts that don’t have a direct land route into the mainland U.S. have to cross the border regularly to access things like grocery stores and medical appointments.

The latter of those two problems was recently addressed when the Consulate General of Canada exempted Point Roberts residents from having to produce a negative COVID test when crossing the border, but larger issues remain.

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“During the pandemic daily life has been uprooted in many ways for all of us, but for communities dependent upon cross-border interactions, life completely halted,” the letter from Washington’s Congressional delegation reads. “Many have family members, spouses, or children on the Canadian side of the border, including those families whose children attend school across the border.”

To address that, the coalition of lawmakers is asking the Biden administration to make the safe reopening of the border “an immediate priority.” The hope is to develop a bilateral plan between the U.S. and Canada in order to chart a path forward that helps border communities mitigate the stresses and limitations brought on by the pandemic.

“The United States and Canada have a special partnership and a long history of close cooperation,” the letter concludes. “We hope this close relationship can lead to swift action between our two countries to safely restore cross border travel while continuing to protect the health and safety of our communities.”

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