LOCAL NEWS

Criticism for U.S. government as next border closure decision looms

Aug 17, 2021, 1:10 PM
US Canada Border Blaine Washington, border closure...
The U.S./Canada border crossing in Blaine, Washington. (Jasperdo, Flickr Creative Commons)

The U.S. government is due to make a decision later this week on whether or not to extend the border closure to Canadians another month.

Before that happens, the American federal government — which has faced backlash for months from state government leaders like Governor Inslee and Washington’s Congressional Delegation — is also earning criticism from foreign policy experts for keeping the border closed this past month, even after Canada opened its doors to vaccinated Americans.

At a panel Monday during the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region’s Annual Summit in Montana, Canadian and American government members discussed how the border closure could have been handled better — and what could be learned for inevitable future pandemics.

State leaders ‘deeply disappointed’ by decision to extend U.S. border closure

Alan Bersin, who served as Assistant Secretary for International Affairs during the Obama administration, as well as Chief Diplomatic Officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Policy, and Vice President of INTERPOL for the Americas Region, says the border closure has become too much about the games of politics, instead of the health-based decision it ought to be.

“There’s been a massive, massive political failure here,” Bersin said.

The half-open, half-closed border situation created by Canada opening to vaccinated Americans on Aug. 9 and the U.S. staying closed has created a nightmare situation for the businesses of Point Roberts, already teetering on the brink after 17 months of being cut off from both Canadian and American customers. With Canadians — who own most of the homes in Point Roberts as vacation residences — barred from coming into the isolated community that shares a land border only with Canada, and the Americans of Point Roberts now free to go shopping across the border in British Columbia, the businesses in the small town are losing what little customer base they had left.

Instead of having one side closed and one opened, Bersin argued that what should have happened was a unified approach between the United States and Canada to apply the same restrictions to people crossing on both sides. He believes that the federal government under the Biden administration was too afraid to take a stance on subjects as controversial as vaccine requirements, or to make a decision on the northern border when the southern border is such a point of contention.

“This is a very dangerous precedent, and a very dangerous experience,” Bersin said, looking ahead to possible future crises that could warrant a similar border closure.

However, Ted Sobel, attaché to Canada with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said there was no legal requirement to keep the same policies at both the southern and northern borders, and that the northern border could potentially open first. The reason that the national government decided to keep the border closed another month, he said, was not due to the southern border, but rather all to do with the delta variant, which was just starting its major surge at the time the last border closure extension was announced in late July.

“What really loomed large was the spread of the delta variant and all the unknowns about that, as well as trends in domestic public health — dealing with things like vaccination rates, hospitalization rates, new infection rates,” Sobel explained. “So those are the things that we were looking at very closely.”

He called the decision a “day-to-day review” that is based on the most recent data at any given time, noting that it was never meant to be a completely “symmetric approach” with Canada.

“Right now it has made sense to take this very tightly coordinated approach,” he said, adding, “We continue on a 30-day cycle — for the very reason that we want to maintain the flexibility.”

He pointed out that if things get noticeably better within the 30 days, the border could reopen early.

Bersin’s idea is to remove the politicians from the decision-making entirely and put it in the hands of health care leaders.

“I think the answer is, we have to have subject matter expertise govern these decisions,” he said. “In certain cross-border matters like water and boundaries, we don’t make those political debates. … I believe we’re going to have to do the same thing in the public health sphere.”

Local News

SDOT Light Rail Ped...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Pedestrian struck, injured by Link light rail train in south Seattle

A pedestrian was struck and injured by a Link light rail train Wednesday afternoon in south Seattle.
1 day ago
(Photo courtesy of King County)...
Frank Sumrall

King County executive initiates plan to conserve and save the region’s wilderness

King County executive announced a plan to protect 65,000 acres of forests, farmland, and greenspace, raising property taxes in the process.
1 day ago
drought...
MyNorthwest Staff

Drought may impact most of Pacific Northwest this summer

Drought is expected to impact much of the Pacific Northwest this summer, impacting areas throughout eastern Washington, southern Oregon and southern Idaho.
1 day ago
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)...
Frank Sumrall

SPD report discovers 80% of 911 calls were for non-criminal events

After reviewing more than 1.2 million 911 calls from 2017 to 2019, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) found 79.7% of calls were for non-criminal events.
1 day ago
...
KIRO 7 News Staff

9-year-old boy shot by younger brother in Federal Way

A 9-year-old boy was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center after being shot by his younger brother in Federal Way.
1 day ago
The US government will fly in baby formula on commercial planes contracted by the military in an ai...
Heather Bosch

A guide to locate baby formula from Washington’s Department of Health

Washington's Department of Health has put together a list of resources to help find nutritious food to feed your newborn.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Criticism for U.S. government as next border closure decision looms