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Minnesota officials praise US decision to reopen to vaccinated Canadians, Mexicans

The policy change is set to take effect early next month, allowing Canadian and Mexican nationals who are fully vaccinated to travel by land into the United States for nonessential purposes.

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Vehicles lined up on Minnesota Highway 11 for over 2 miles to cross the Canadian border in International Falls on Monday, Aug. 9, 2021. Contributed / Tricia Heibel
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ST. PAUL — Biden administration officials late on Tuesday, Oct. 12, announced that the United States would reopen its land borders to travel for vaccinated tourists coming from Canada and Mexico beginning in November.

The announcement comes after northern Minnesota businesses for months struggled without the regular traffic from Canadian visitors. Vaccinated Canadians have been able to travel to the United States for months by air and vaccinated Americans regained their ability to travel to cross the border into Canada for nonessential travel in August.

But federal health officials had not yet cleared vaccinated Canadian and Mexican nationals to cross the land border until this week. The travel limits went into effect in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic took hold across the continent.

Here's a look at what Minnesota's U.S. senators had to say about the news early Wednesday, Oct. 13.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar pointed to her work on the Senate panel that met with the Canadian Parliament to reopen travel between the two countries and said the change in policy was "good news."

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"Businesses have suffered and friends and family have been separated for too long," Klobuchar said in a news release. "As the mayor of Duluth would say — we can see the lighthouse on the horizon. This is an important step as we continue to fight our way out of this pandemic.”

MORE ON THE BORDER RESTRICTIONS:

Sen. Tina Smith on Wednesday said she was glad to see the policy change since vaccinated Canadians had been allowed to travel to the U.S. for months and vaccinated Americans had been allowed to cross the land border to Canada since August. She highlighted the hard economic hit many northern Minnesota communities took due to the blockade on Canadian travelers coming into the state.

“Lifting of the restrictions on Canadian land travel to the United States could not have come soon enough for many Northern border communities and businesses that have been devastated by the steep drop in Canadian travelers,” Smith said. “We know the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe has seen its revenues down 70 to 80% below average with the restrictions in place, and many others have been hard hit by the restrictions. This has been a very difficult time for these communities and I hope we will see them recover in the months ahead after the restrictions are ended.”

U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, a Republican who represents Minnesota's 8th Congressional District, on Twitter wrote that the shift marked a positive change for northern Minnesota communities.

"After months of pressing the Biden Admin, I am pleased to hear that the US land border with Canada will finally reopen," he said. "As the Representative of a border district, I know that this is welcome news for many families and businesses in northern Minnesota!"

And Rep. Michelle Fischbach, who represents the state's 7th Congressional District, said the shift was positive but came months too late.

“I am so glad these businesses - that have gone through two devastating tourist seasons — can finally start recovering," she said. "I look forward to welcoming Canadians back to Minnesota very soon.”

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Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email dferguson@forumcomm.com

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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