WASHINGTON — Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas dodged questions from senators Tuesday about the criteria used to justify keeping the nation’s northern land border closed to fully vaccinated Canadians, hours after the U.S. renewed its border restrictions for another month.
Testifying on “threats to the homeland” before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Mayorkas would not directly respond to queries from Chairman Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., about the reasoning behind barring Canadians who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 from driving to the U.S.
Mayorkas also signaled the fate of the northern border may be tied to that of the U.S.-Mexico border, where the federal government currently enforces strict asylum and entry restrictions amid record-high migration levels.
“We are taking it iteratively. We are looking at the situation, not only at the ports of entry at our northern border but also at our southern border,” he said.
The senators, who represent states along the northern border, noted that Canada has a higher vaccination rate than the U.S. and that the country recently lifted its own land border restriction on fully vaccinated American travelers.
Peters specifically questioned why the U.S. chose to lift travel restrictions on vaccinated visitors from more than two dozen countries beginning in November, an update announced Monday, but kept the Canadian border closure in place. Hassan also pressed Mayorkas on why the restrictions are limited to land, allowing Canadians to fly into the U.S. regardless of vaccination status.
“I do not understand the public health rationale here at all for closing the northern border to vehicular traffic when it is essentially open to air traffic,” Hassan said.
Peters asked Mayorkas to provide his office and the public with the “specific criteria the administration is using to justify ongoing restrictions for fully vaccinated Canadians at land ports of entry.”
Mayorkas said he “most certainly will” but did not provide any metrics at the hearing.
“We are looking primarily at the public health rationale, the fact that the arc of the delta variant is not yet where we need it to be,” he said.