Border Travel

Senators Want Travel Restrictions Reevaluated at US-Canada Border

The senators from Maine and New Hampshire say the restrictions "put an immense strain on the communities that straddle the border"

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U.S. Senators from Maine and New Hampshire want the federal government to reevaluate the restrictions on travel between the U.S. and Canada during the coronavirus pandemic.

The senators say the restrictions "put an immense strain on the communities that straddle the border" along the world's longest international boundary.

They also said the risk of significant cross-border transmission of coronavirus appears to be low at this time in many border areas.

The bipartisan group includes Republican Sen. Susan Collins and independent Sen. Angus King of Maine as well as Democratic Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

They described the communities most affected as places that “rely on one another for essential supplies and services.”

Jaques Poitras, who is provincial affairs reporter for CBC New Brunswick and authored a book on the Maine-New Brunswick border called “Imaginary Line,” told NECN and NBC10 Boston that “the historical connections are pretty deep” between people in Maine and Canada.

“People get married across the border, people go across daily to work, weekly to shop, play sports,” said Poitras, adding that, “a lot of people go across for less expensive gas or less expensive milk” as well.

Poitras explained that many border communities actually predate the boundary itself and their histories are intertwined.

However, even with all of those factors brought together, he believes most New Brunswickers would prefer to limit travel back and forth between the two countries as much as possible until Americans as a whole are healthier and the pandemic is more subdued.

“There’s been polling that shows Canadians overwhelmingly support keeping the border closed with the United States,” Poitras said.

“I think, fairly or unfairly, people would lump Maine in with the rest of the U.S. We see the coverage of states with a lot of cases -- Florida was a great example -- they see the president and some of the things he’s said and done,” he added.

As of Friday, New Brunswick only had 200 total coronavirus cases, just five active ones and only two deaths.

Meanwhile, Maine had 5,468 total cases and 142 deaths.

Asked about how the White House would coordinate an effort to loosen border restrictions, a spokesman for King, Maine's independent senator, said it would likely require the Trump administration coordinating an effort between the United States Centers for Disease Control, Department of Homeland Security and State Department, along with counterparts in Canada.

On Sept. 18, the acting secretary of the U.S. DHS announced the border would remain closed to non-essential travel until at least Oct. 21.

NBC/The Associated Press
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