If you have friends and family living in Canada or Mexico who are eager to come for a visit after 19 months of separation, there’s some good news on the horizon. DHS Secretary Mayorkas announced that in November, travel restrictions for foreign nationals will be lifted at the Canadian and Mexican borders. This applies only to vaccinated travelers, though, so that is an important stipulation.
Non-essential travel between the United States and our neighbors to the north and south was shut down in March 2020 to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The new rules are similar to the planned requirements announced last month for international air travelers. Family visits and tourism will be able to start back up though an actual date has not been announced. The Biden administration only says early November is when the restrictions will be lifted for vaccinated travelers. This is a continuing pattern by Team Biden – they make sweeping new policy announcements but don’t bother to provide specifics.
This is a good move for the border communities that will help ease financial hardships caused by the border shutdowns. In normal times, for example, consumers from Mexico cross over into Texas to shop, and the same works in reverse. Many Texas residents have families still living in Mexico and traveling back and forth is a normal way of life. Lifting the travel restriction for non-essential travel will provide an economic recovery for struggling businesses.
Unvaccinated visitors will still be unable to cross the border. This new order will provide consistency between air, land, and ferry travel.
It’s easy to point to the irony in this new order, though. The southern border is wide open to illegal migrants crossing the Rio Grande River or other open spots with gaps that allow caravans or groups of Central Americans, Haitians, and others to walk across the border. All they have to do is get to the border and they find a way to get in, vaccinated or not. Illegal aliens have brought COVID-19 with them and screening for the coronavirus at the border is not done when law enforcement is overwhelmed by the sheer number of people to process. Team Biden says that Title 42 will remain in effect. This allows the immediate expulsion of illegal migrants due to public health safety concerns. The Biden administration has been using it to expel single men while allowing unaccompanied minors and most families to remain in the United States until their cases are processed.
There is not a requirement to show a negative COVID-19 test result for land or sea travelers as long as they have proof of vaccination, unlike air travelers who do have to show a negative test result. The Biden administration says it is creating a consistent and “stringent” protocol for foreign national travelers. The problem with that kind of statement is that there is no reason to believe it. The Biden administration has not been consistent and stringent on anything. Policies are announced and then nothing happens, no details are provided so it is difficult to hold the administration accountable. Look no further than the demand that companies with 100 or more employees mandate COVID-19 vaccinations. There has been no follow-up by OSHA with written guidance for employers. The Biden administration has been strikingly inept in following through on much of anything.
On September 20, the White House announced the United States would also lift travel restrictions in early November on air travelers from 33 countries including the UK, most of Europe, China, India and Brazil, who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The precise date in early November when the restrictions will be lifted on both land and air travel will be announced ‘very soon,’ one of the officials said, adding the that Biden administration was ‘creating a consistent stringent protocol for all foreign nationals traveling into the United States.’
On August 9, Canada began allowing fully vaccinated non-essential U.S. travelers into the country. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) said the announcement ‘will provide great relief to those waiting to see friends and loved ones from Canada.’
All essential visitors, like truck drivers, will have to show proof of vaccination beginning in early January in order to cross land borders. That will be a new requirement. There are some unanswered questions about the vaccines themselves. The CDC will have to provide answers. The phased approach will allow essential workers the time to get vaccinated, providing a smooth transition.
On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the United States would accept the use by international visitors of COVID-19 vaccines authorized by U.S. regulators or the World Health Organization.
One question unanswered is whether the United States will accept vaccines from visitors who received doses of two different COVID-19 vaccines.
A two-tier system is here for tourism and commercial travel. There is already a shortage of workers in many fields, especially in the trucking industry. It will be interesting to see how vaccine mandates affect that industry. DHS will make the official announcement of lifting ground and water travel restrictions for vaccinated travelers today. It will be known as Title 19.