Travel restrictions have affected Americans and international travelers alike, but perhaps no one feels border-crossing conundrums more acutely than immigrants and their loved ones. And with the COVID-19 pandemic surging in several countries, their situations are likely to worsen before they improve.
The U.S. borders to both Mexico and Canada are closed through at least Nov. 21, according to a tweet from Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf earlier this month.
“To continue to limit the spread of COVID, the US, Mexico, & Canada will extend the restrictions on non-essential travel through Nov 21,” the tweet reads. “We are working closely with Mexico & Canada to identify safe criteria to ease the restrictions in the future & support our border communities.”
To continue to limit the spread of COVID, the US, Mexico, & Canada will extend the restrictions on non-essential travel through Nov 21. We are working closely with Mexico & Canada to identify safe criteria to ease the restrictions in the future & support our border communities.
— Acting Secretary Chad Wolf (@DHS_Wolf) October 19, 2020
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country will keep the border closed until the U.S. gets control of the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19 – and USA TODAY’s analysis of the most recent Johns Hopkins data suggests that day isn’t near: 18 states reported record case numbers for the week ended Sunday and another five recorded new records for deaths in one week.
Border crossings into the U.S. may be more locked down than out of the country despite the U.S. having the highest COVID-19 case count in the world, with more than 9.2 million.
All told, the U.S. reported a record 569,350 new cases, eclipsing the previous week’s high By way of comparison, its COVID-19 cases for the week of Oct. 26-Nov. 1 were more than 14 times the 38,799 cases Canada’s public health agency reported for the past two weeks.
Despite the land border closure, Canada has begun allowing extended family members who live in the U.S. to seek an exemption allowing them to travel north, provided they follow that country’s COVID-19 requirements. Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) called on President Donald Trump to do the same on the U.S. side.
“I ask you to implement carefully calibrated exemptions to these restrictions – based on reasonable public health metrics – for property owners and those traveling to reunite with family across the border,” he wrote earlier this month. “The Canadian government has relaxed restrictions for travel of family members of Canadian citizens on two separate occasions already. … The United States, however, has yet to adopt similar exemptions for land border crossings.”
Some trips across the U.S.-Mexico border are worth the risk
Since March 21, the Trump administration has also restricted travel at the U.S.-Mexico border in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Currently, border crossings into the U.S. are limited to U.S. citizens and permanent residents returning home and individuals crossing for “essential” purposes, such as