United States-Canada border will close to non-essential travel overnight Friday

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WASHINGTON (WIVB) – Confirming what Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday, the Trump administration has said non-essential travel across the border between the United States and Canada will be suspended effective Friday night.

The restriction will take effect at 11:59 p.m. Friday, according to the notice in the Federal Register. For now, it will be in effect through April 20th. The move represents a joint effort between the two counties to contain the spread of coronavirus.

“We’re grateful to have such an outstanding friend to the north who is as committed as we are to defeating this virus,” said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The notice provides a description of what type of travel will be considered “essential”. It includes:

  • U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States
  • Individuals traveling for medical purposes (e.g., to receive medical treatment in the United States)
  • Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions
  • Individuals traveling to work in the United States (e.g., individuals working in the farming or agriculture industry who must travel between the United States and Canada in furtherance of such work)
  • Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes (e.g. government officials or emergency responders entering the United States to support Federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government efforts to respond to COVID-19 or other emergencies)
  • Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade (e.g., truck drivers supporting the movement of cargo between the United States and Canada)
  • Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces, returning to the United States
  • Individuals engaged in military-related travel or operations

Rep. Brian Higgins has been in touch with United States Customs and Border Protection officials over the last few days. He says he specifically requested the exemption for medical travel.

“Canadians spend about $10 million a year for health care in Western New York alone,” Higgins said. “When you live on a border, there is an interdependence as it relates to health care services.”

A spokesperson for CBP says the Department of Homeland Security is indicating that anyone trying to enter the United States will be required to prove that their travel is essential.

“At ports of entry, CBP will scale staffing based on anticipated workloads in an effort to expeditiously process travelers impacted by the restriction,” the spokesperson said.

Higgins said that’s something he would like to follow up on.

“If there is not going to be any, or a very small, level of passenger and commercial traffic at one bridge, it would make sense to reassign that personnel,” Higgins said.

A similar regulation will also take effect at the United States-Mexico border Friday night.

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