HELENA - Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is pressing the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) to return to normal hours of operation for the border stations that control traffic into Canada, saying it's "critical" for the economy, especially in rural communities.
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 Canadian governments to restrict crossings during the start of the pandemic in 2020.
While traffic has resumed with an ever changing list of requirements, the U.S. border stations have continued to limit their operating hours. Noting Montana exported nearly $700-million in goods to Canada in 2018, Tester says the full re-opening is critical to agriculture and tourism.
"So whether it's getting goods and services across the border, or whether it's for recreational purposes, that border being opened is important," Tester said Wednesday. "We've got a 550-mile border with Canada, and like I said, there our number one trading partner. So getting those ports hours opened so we're pre-pandemic levels I think is really important."
"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. And and for those folks that haven't been, go out and get vaccinated and and get the border open."
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. 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.