Canada announced this week it will expand family-related exemptions for entering that country from the United States. Congressman Brian Higgins has written the Trump Administration seeking a similar relaxation of restrictions to enter the United States.
Previously, the Canadian government announced it would allow exemptions for immediate family members but on Thursday stated it would extend those privileges to extended relatives, provided they first complete a 14-day quarantine upon entry.
"Those considered to be extended family members would include an exclusive dating relationship for at least a year, an adult child, a grandchild, a sibling, a half-sibling, a step-sibling and a grandparent," said Congressman Higgins. "What we're asking the Trump administration to do is to provide that expanded exemption to American citizens, the same as is being applied to Canadian citizens."
The US-Canada border has been closed to non-essential traffic since March. Exemptions include commercial, medical, educational, military, government or emergency response needs. The agreement between Washington and Ottawa to close the border has been extended several times since March and is currently set to expire October 21.
But Higgins, who has also pushed to allow entry into Canada by Western New Yorkers who own property there, says COVID numbers continue to be an obstacle.
"Canadian federal government officials and provincial officials, specifically the province of Ontario, have an obligation to protect their people, their health and safety. And Americans, because of the ineffective, chaotic way that the federal government dealt or didn't deal with this, are viewed as super spreaders," Higgins said.
Monday marks Thanksgiving in Canada. Higgins says many families will be unable to get together for the holiday, as the border remains closed. Further frustrating to the congressman is that New York's numbers have been kept low, but other regions along the northern border are experiencing growths in numbers.
In his letter to President Trump, Higgins suggests allowing a regional approach so that areas in better shape, including Western New York, may resume cross-border transactions.
In the meantime, he's also urging US citizens to stop treating safety measures as a political issue and respect them as steps needed to bring the nation closer to the end of the pandemic.
"If we don't, then these numbers are going to continue. If we don't, the US-Canadian border is going to remain closed," he said. "If we don't, we're not going to get back to a sense of of normalcy in terms of the economy. So I think that, you know, we can do a better job.
"But we have to do it together, because some of us doing it, and others not, just lead to the same result. We have a disproportionately high number of COVID-19 cases and a disproportionately high number of COVID-19 deaths. And that has to change. Until that changes, the Canadian border's going to remain closed."