Washington — Seventy-five House members on Wednesday are encouraging President Joe Biden to take “science-based, data-driven steps” to safely reopen international travel to the United States, including loosening restrictions at the Canada border.
The lawmakers highlighted the economic impact of suspended inbound international travel, noting that the travel decline in 2020 resulted in a loss of $150 billion in export income. The United States is on track to lose 1.1 million jobs and another $175 billion by year’s end, they said.
The letter, led by U.S. Reps. Bill Huizenga, R-Holland, and Brian Higgins, D-New York, urges Biden and the Canadian government to drop all travel restrictions between the two countries for travelers who are fully vaccinated or show proof of a negative PCR test for COVID-19.
The land border with Canada has been closed to non-essential travel for 16 months due to the pandemic. The lawmakers say officials should “follow the science” with COVID vaccinations rising and infection rates down in both nations.
Sixty-seven percent of Americans and Canadians have received at least one shot of the vaccine. Forty-eight percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, and 27% of Canadians, according to government data.
Higgins and Huizenga co-chair the Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group.
Five House members from Michigan signed the letter in addition to Huizenga: Reps. John Moolenaar, R-Midland; Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township; Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township; Peter Meijer, R-Grand Rapids Township; and Lisa McClain, R-Bruce Township.
The lawmakers also want Biden to reestablish travel with the United Kingdom and increase processing capacity for tourism and business visas. According to the letter, 57 of 237 visa processing sites were fully operational as of April, and 76% of U.S. consulates remained fully or partially closed to routine visa processing.
The Biden administration has set up expert working groups to examine restarting travel between the U.S. and Canada and between the U.S. and U.K. But the White House has provided no updates on a timeline or guidelines or metrics for reopening.
“We’re working to continue to assess what criteria would need to be in place in order to reopen travel,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.
“And we know that, in many cases, families are separated. We know that’s a heartbreaking challenge that a lot of people are dealing with. And a lot of people are eager to travel, be with loved ones, or even do work travel. We understand that. We’re eager to do that, as well.”