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Minnesota, North Dakota governors frustrated over continued border closure

The U.S. border remains closed to Canadians, while Americans will be able to cross the Canadian border beginning Aug. 9.

072321 N GFH DROUGHT TimWalz02.jpg
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz addresses an audience gathered at the Reitmeier farm north of Crookston, Minn., following a tour of drought conditions on Thursday, July 22, 2021. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
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PORTLAND, N.D. – Governors in the northern United States, including North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz , are dismayed that Canadians still can’t cross the international border into the United States.

The border between the U.S. and Canada has been closed since March 2020 over concerns about spreading COVID-19.

On Wednesday, July 21, the Biden administration extended restrictions for at least another month on nonessential travel. Two days before the administration’s decision, Canada announced on Aug. 9, it would reopen its border to fully vaccinated U.S. citizens for nonessential travel.

“Having that (northern) border closed makes no sense, whatsoever,” Burgum said Wednesday during a reception at the Norseman Hall in Portland, noting that the vaccination rate of Canadians is greater than that of Americans. Burgum was at the reception, which was open to the public, at the invitation of North Dakota District 20 Republicans.

Walz, a member of the Minnesota DFL party, said he is frustrated that the restrictions for nonessential travel were continued, noting that it made sense to keep the border closed earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic. Until Wednesday's decision by the Biden administration, the U.S. and Canada were mutual in their agreement about travel between the two countries.

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When Canada announced July 19 that it will reopen its border to nonessential travel on Aug. 9, it was demonstrating its trust in the United States, and the U.S. should reciprocate, Walz said.

“I hope we can reconsider this,” he said.

The closure of the northern border is hurting North Dakota’s economy, Burgum said.

For example, Grand Forks is missing out on business opportunities because of the closure, he said. The city is a popular destination for Canadian shoppers and, along with Fargo, for health care.

In a statement Wednesday, Burgum mentioned in a statement Wednesday that the restrictions had "crossed the line from precautionary to preposterous."

“Our best defense against the Delta variant is safe, effective vaccines, which remain free and available to U.S. and Canadian citizens alike,” Burgum added. “Keeping the border closed to travelers won’t substantially drive vaccination rates up, but it will continue to hold the economy down and hurt communities that depend on cross-border activity, including North Dakota’s retail and tourism industries as well as friends and family members separated by border restrictions for more than 16 months.

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"It’s our hope the current administration pays as much attention to the actual security of the southern border as it does to the unnecessary restrictions at the northern border.”

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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