Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks during a confirmation hearing for Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee Xavier Becerra before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. Credit: Sarah Silbiger / Pool via AP

Sen. Susan Collins is pleading with the Biden administration to reconsider the restrictions on the U.S.-Canada border crossings that were imposed in March last year due to the pandemic.

Collins, a Republican, called on the administration to work with her to find an “equitable solution” for border communities in a Feb. 16 letter to the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

“While I appreciate the need to limit nonessential travel into the United States in order to prevent further spread of COVID-19, these restrictions should reflect the localized risk levels along our border, and allow for certain common-sense exceptions, such as visits among close relatives or day-to-day local commerce in low-COVID-19 transmission areas,” Collins wrote.

This comes less than a week after DHS announced via Twitter that the U.S., Mexico and Canada had jointly agreed to maintain land border restrictions until March 21, cementing more than one year of border restrictions.

On the Canadian border, this has meant only for Canadian citizens, Americans with dual citizenship and family members and romantic partners are allowed to cross for non-essential purposes.

Collins has been calling on the U.S. government to consider localizing these restrictions since at least last June, when she sent a letter to then-Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf citing low case counts in U.S. border communities and strong social and economic ties between communities on either side of the border.

“I am concerned that border communities that have historically depended on day-to-day cross-border commerce will be left behind, even as their risk of COVID-19 transmission appears to remain low,” she wrote.

Subsequent letters from Collins to Wolf, Canadian Border Services Agency President John Ossowski, and former President Donald Trump — the latter cosigned by other Maine and New Hampshire lawmakers — made similar arguments. These letters were re-sent on Feb. 25 alongside her Feb. 16 plea.

That said, DHS’s announcement last week and Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s December 2020 statement refusing to ease restrictions until the pandemic is significantly more under control worldwide, indicate that neither government has any intention of opening the border soon.

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Hannah Catlin

Hannah Catlin is a reporter at the St. John Valley Times/Fiddlehead Focus in Madawaska, Maine.