The US is extending non-essential travel restrictions at its land borders with Canada and Mexico through at least September 21, the Department of Homeland Security announced Friday, citing the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
“In coordination with public health and medical experts, DHS continues working closely with its partners across the United States and internationally to determine how to safely and sustainably resume normal travel,” the department tweeted.
The US has been limiting non-essential travel along both borders since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and extending those restrictions on a monthly basis. The restrictions don’t apply to cross-border trade, US citizens and lawful permanent residents, as well as people traveling for medical purposes or to attend school, among others.
Travel restrictions, which date back to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, have come under heavy scrutiny by lobbyists, lawmakers and border mayors who have implored the Biden administration to adjust limits to meet the evolving landscape.
In an interview with CNN earlier this month, Rep. Brian Higgins – a Democrat who represents communities along the northern New York border and a co-chair of the House’s Northern Border Caucus – predicted an “uproar” if the Biden administration renewed the travel restrictions.
“There’s not only inconsistencies but there’s direct conflict with what we’re told to do by government and public health officials and the policy on the Canadian border,” Higgins told CNN then.
As the pandemic took hold in March 2020, several countries joined the US in closing their borders. But with the roll out of the vaccine and other Covid mitigation measures, many countries have eased up on their restrictions.
Canada, for instance, instituted a vaccine requirement that allows US citizens and permanent residents to enter the country, while travel by Canadians into the US remains severely limited.
Several countries in Europe have also opened their borders to Americans – many of them instituting similar vaccine rules for travel.
Loosening up the US non-essential border restrictions has been a focus of lobbyists, lawmakers and border mayors.
There had been discussions within the administration, CNN previously reported, of a vaccine mandate for foreign travelers into the US, but such a plan has not been firmed up.
Meanwhile, large swaths of the United States are struggling to contain spikes in Covid cases fueled by the delta variant.
“The interagency working groups are currently developing a policy process, and we will be ready when it is the right time to consider reopening travel,” the White House Covid-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said a press briefing earlier this month. “And that’ll be guided, as always, by the science and the public health.”
This story has been updated with additional information.