Border restrictio­ns keep couples apart

Canada reopens, but US bars nonessenti­al trips

- Jamie L. LaReau

The 18-month-long border battle has not ended for Kim Thompson of Ferndale, Michigan.

She and her longtime boyfriend, Art Malott, of Canada, remain frustrated despite Monday’s news that Canada would open its border to nonessenti­al travel starting Aug. 9 – at least for fully vaccinated Americans.

That’s because while it remains relatively easy for Thompson to visit Malott at his home just south of Windsor in Harrow along Lake Erie, he cannot drive into Michigan to visit her and her family here.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday that nonessenti­al travel restrictio­ns on the U.S. side of the Canada and Mexico borders would be extended through Aug. 21.

So the momentary joy of Monday’s news was overshadow­ed by an ongoing disappoint­ment with the U.S. government.

“We did what we were supposed to do, got vaccinated. We did the right thing,” Thompson said, her voice trailing off as she became overwhelme­d by emotion. “The U.S. has not done a single thing to reciprocat­e. They have ignored us. It’s very frustratin­g that they brag about how great the U.S. is and then they ignore the families.”

There are others who are disappoint­ed that the Biden administra­tion’s response to Canada’s move Monday has been largely silent.

Then, there are other concerns. The Faces of Advocacy, an organizati­on with 12,000 members pushing for reunificat­ion of binational Canadian families during the COVID-19 travel restrictio­ns, said it was cautiously optimistic about Canada’s move given the past complexity of border crossing.

“While in principle allowing fully vaccinated foreign nationals into Canada is good news, Canadian families learned over the past year that the operationa­l details can significan­tly hamper actual immigratio­n into Canada,” said David Poon, founder of Faces of Advocacy.

“I am extremely happy about this news. But I am very disappoint­ed that the United States has not reciprocat­ed.” Danielle Fan Canadian, whose longtime boyfriend lives in Troy, Michigan

Most concerning to Poon was that the announceme­nt did not definitive­ly strike a 15-day quarantine for fully vaccinated foreign nationals.

“In fact, a Day 8 test is mandated for the unvaccinat­ed, which implies the 15day stay will apply to children,” Poon said.

Poon said such a stay could prohibit many families from reuniting.

Because the situation is fluid, it is good to check official travel websites such as the U.S. Embassy website fact sheet before traveling.

In June, the U.S. extended land border restrictio­ns for nonessenti­al travel until Wednesday, as well as ferry crossings with Canada and Mexico. It is unclear when the U.S. will lift these restrictio­ns.

On Wednesday, the U.S. extended the nonessenti­al travel restrictio­ns at the Canada and Mexico borders until Aug. 21.

Thompson believes that because the U.S. government does not want to open the southern border, that might be influencin­g what it does along the northern border.

Thompson said she and Malott have been on an email campaign with a group called Let us Reunite urging lawmakers to speak up.

“Nothing,” Thompson said. “That’s very discouragi­ng.”

A spokespers­on for U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., sent the following comment in an email to the Detroit Free Press, part of the USA TODAY Network: “The U.S. should listen to public health experts and also take into considerat­ion the same scientific facts that the Canadian government used to make this decision so that families can be reunited.”

A spokespers­on for U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Mich., said in an email to the Free Press: “The Congresswo­man urges President Biden to reciprocat­e the standards that the Canadian Prime Minister has implemente­d. It is time to open up our northern border and keep strengthen­ing our economy in Michigan.”

On Monday, when asked in Washington whether the U.S. would reciprocat­e, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “We are continuing to review our travel restrictio­ns. Any decisions about resuming travel will be guided by our public health and medical experts . ... I wouldn’t look at it through a reciprocal intention.”

The U.S. does allow Canadians to fly into the U.S. with a negative COVID-19 test or proof of recovery from COVID-19 – a requiremen­t for anyone boarding an internatio­nal flight to the U.S. – but for those like Malott, it would require traveling to Toronto and spending hundreds of dollars on airfare to fly to Detroit.

Canadian Danielle Fan, 30, boarded a flight for Detroit about this time last year to see her longtime boyfriend, David Goodrich, 30, who lives in Troy, Michigan. It was expensive for Fan, who lives in Windsor, Ontario, and it required her to use a chunk of vacation time from her job as a pharmacist.

“I had to drive to Toronto and then fly to Detroit,” Fan said. “It was a huge hassle. I stayed three weeks in Michigan and then my brother-in-law, who is an American citizen, drove me back to Windsor. Then I had to quarantine for 15 days.”

On Tuesday morning, Fan had jitters as she drove to work. The previous day’s news was bitterswee­t and she was on edge about any future border changes.

“I am extremely happy about this news,” Fan said. “But I am very disappoint­ed that the United States has not reciprocat­ed. I am very nervous today because I feel there’ll be an announceme­nt. But I get my hopes up every month and I feel like they get crushed every month. All I do is read the news and look at rumors online.”

The last time Goodrich came to visit Fan was last fall, so they have seen each other twice in the past 18 months. “So we’ve been lucky,” she said. “But it’s extremely difficult saying goodbye, especially when you don’t know when the next time you’ll see each other again. It was very detrimenta­l to our mental health.”

Beyond Goodrich, Fan has a sister who lives in Dundee who she has not seen for nearly a year.

Holding up the border opening for much of this year has been the fact that Canadians had lagged Americans in terms of getting access to a COVID-19 vaccine and getting fully vaccinated.

That has changed. According to data from CTV News, 48.8% of Canada’s population had been fully vaccinated as of Sunday, compared with 48.1% of Americans. More than 70% of Canada’s population has been at least partially vaccinated, compared with 56% in the U.S., according to USA TODAY’s vaccine tracker.

Fan said her boyfriend goes to the grocery store in Troy not wearing a mask and, “they’re having huge parties everywhere there and it’s so strange that everything is so open in the United States, yet they’re not letting anyone in.”

Meanwhile, Ontario was on lockdown from April 28 until early June. But now, “things are extremely good here in Ontario. We have very few cases,” Fan said.

Thompson said she drove through the tunnel to Canada last week to visit Malott. She brings her four dogs and usually stays for several weeks given the difficulty of going back and forth across the border right now. Malott, who was with Thompson when Thompson spoke to the Free Press, declined to be interviewe­d because he is so angry that the U.S. is not opening its border. He is itching to return to the Motor City.

“He wants to go to a Tigers game, and he wants to eat in Detroit,” Thompson said. “He’s said as soon as the border opens he’s going to a Tigers game. You don’t miss what you have until you don’t have it.”

Fan said she feels like Canada’s move to open the border is “a little late, and it could have happened months ago.”

“I would have assumed it was the Canadians who were holding it up,” Fan said. “But the Biden administra­tion has been so quiet.”

When and if there is news that the U.S. border opens up, Lansing resident Amanda Mattingley, 33, said her family members living in Canada are ready to come visit.

“If the U.S does not extend the border closure, and my Canadian family is allowed to cross the land border (Wednesday), they definitely will be planning to drive across and see us over here for the first time in 16 months,” Mattingley said.

 ?? PROVIDED BY KIM THOMPSON ?? Kim Thompson and boyfriend Art Malott in front of his home in Canada. They are frustrated that the United States has not opened the border so that Malott can drive to Detroit to visit Thompson in Ferndale, Mich.
PROVIDED BY KIM THOMPSON Kim Thompson and boyfriend Art Malott in front of his home in Canada. They are frustrated that the United States has not opened the border so that Malott can drive to Detroit to visit Thompson in Ferndale, Mich.
 ?? PROVIDED BY DANIELLE FAN ?? David Goodrich and Danielle Fan at Christmas time 2020 in Amherstbur­g, Ontario.
PROVIDED BY DANIELLE FAN David Goodrich and Danielle Fan at Christmas time 2020 in Amherstbur­g, Ontario.

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