HELENA - US Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) says he may not have the medical skills, but sees the continued economic impact along the border from pandemic restrictions.
He's once more calling for the U-S border crossings to resume full service. Tester has been pressing for a return to normal border operations for the past year, citing the decline in the COVID-19 problems that forced both the U.S. and Canada to restrict crossings in 2020.
While traffic has resumed with an ever-changing list of requirements, the US border stations keep limiting operating hours, something Tester said is hard to understand.
"I'm a dirt farmer. I'm not a doctor, But I will tell you that for those folks who've been vaccinated, it makes no difference whatsoever," Tester said. "And for those folks that haven't been, go out and get vaccinated and get the border open."
Noting Montana had nearly $700 million in Canadian exports in 2018, Tester says the full re-opening is critical to agriculture and tourism.
"All those things have impacts. They have economic impacts. They have impacts," Tester said. "Be able to businesses to be able to succeed. And I just think that if we really want to get the economy fully back on track, and it's doing quite well right now, but making sure those ports are open are really important."
It's important to individuals too. Brandy Carvey of Eureka sent us pictures of her family trying to enjoy an Easter Sunday reunion at Lake Koocanusa, roasting hot dogs through the barbed wire fence. Tester says re-opening would help ease the continued financial and emotional pinch on residents living "across the border."
"I think that's the right thing to do, especially if you want to do some things to try to influence inflation," Tester said. "Because supply chain is a big cause for the inflation that we're having right now."
There have been past fights with Customs and Border Patrol on trimming operations at some of the remote border crossings. Tester says he's not concerned about that, but he did offer a warning.
"If you want to talk about closing the ports down or reducing hours on a permanent basis, let's have that debate. We've had that before. We've won. And we'll have it again, and we'll win again," Tester said. "But the bottom line is, is that to close the ports to keep the hours low because the pandemic, I think, is a mistake."
Tester is also opposed to efforts to lift the "Title 42" immigration provisions without having a better plan for staffing and security along the northern border.