The US travel industry and allies are increasing pressure President Joe Biden to lift the pandemic-era bans on entry to the country. This has led to tension between administration officials about the political and health risks of opening too quickly.
Covid-19 border restrictions have restricted who can travel to the US. One rule bars migrants from applying for asylum. Some restrictions prevent foreigners visiting their family. While the restrictions are still in place, tourism from abroad was effectively stopped.
These ongoing discussions include two issues Biden has struggled with since he took office: immigration and the coronavirus panademic. Both of these are currently under intense political scrutiny. The administration decided Wednesday to delay the opening of nonessential travel between Canada and Mexico until August 21.
Officials say Biden is trying to avoid a scenario where restrictions are lifted and then put back in place in the future. Liberals and conservatives are both examining the President’s immigration policies as well as the Trump-era restrictions.
The White House pointed out interagency working group formations last month when being asked about the timing of reopening the borders. The White House Covid-19 Response Team and the National Security Council oversee the formation of the groups, which include representatives of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Homeland Security and Transportation, and officials from the Departments of State, Health and Human Services.
American officials met with representatives from Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the European Union. They have met many times to discuss the reopening situation that was announced by the administration at the beginning of Biden’s first foreign trip. In between the larger meetings, there have been smaller group discussions to discuss specific issues such as the epidemiological situation, variants and vaccination efforts, and plans for changing travel restrictions.
Some people are questioning the effectiveness of the working groups, as Americans openly welcome other countries without knowing if the US will reciprocate. According to a source, there was “paralysis between agencies” regarding the next steps.
When Jen Psaki was asked by reporters about the possibility of the US reopening its borders to foreigners, Jen Psaki stated that there are ongoing discussions among the working groups. She also mentioned updates and briefings with medical experts and health professionals about what is safe to do. “We will follow the science and I have no idea of the timeline.”
When asked why Canada has reopened its borders, she replied, “We rely upon the guidance of our medical experts and not on actions by other countries.”
After Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, pressured Biden to answer questions about reopening travel during Oval Office talks last week, Biden stated that he would have more information in the “next few days.”
Biden’s party members are frustrated by the lack of answers and are asking for more flexibility from the administration.
“It’s extremely disappointing that the United States government has failed in reciprocity current family exemptions allowed by Canada and failed to show a lackluster urgency to make any progress along this side of border toward lifting restrictions,” stated Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins, New York, who chairs Congressional Northern Border Caucus. This statement came Monday after Canada announced that it would reopen to vaccinated Americans.