HELENA — U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) says he may not have the medical skills, but sees the continued economic impact along the border of the pandemic restrictions.
He is once again calling for U.S. border crossings to resume full service. Tester has been pushing for a return to normal border operations over the past year, citing diminishing COVID-19 concerns that forced the United States and Canada to restrict crossings in 2020.
As traffic resumed with an ever-changing list of requirements, U.S. border crossings continue to limit hours of operation, which Tester said is hard to fathom.
“I’m a land farmer. I’m not a doctor, but I’ll tell you, for people who’ve been vaccinated, it doesn’t make a difference,” Tester said. “And for those who haven’t been, go out and get vaccinated and open the border.”
Noting that Montana had nearly $700 million in Canadian exports in 2018, Tester says full reopening is essential for agriculture and tourism.
“All of these things have impacts. They have economic impacts. They have impacts,” Tester said. “Be able for businesses to succeed. And I just think if we really want to get the economy back on track, and it’s going pretty well right now, but making sure those ports are open is really important. “
It is important for individuals as well. Eureka’s Brandy Carvey sent us photos of her family trying to enjoy an Easter Sunday gathering at Lake Koocanusa, roasting hot dogs through the barbed wire fence. The tester says reopening would help ease the ongoing financial and emotional pinch for residents living “across the border”.
“I think it’s the right thing to do, especially if you want to do certain things to try to influence inflation,” Tester said. “Because the supply chain is a major cause of the inflation we are currently experiencing.”
There have been past fights with Customs and Border Patrol over cutting operations at some of the remote border crossings. The tester says he’s not concerned about this, but he offered a warning.
“If you want to talk about closing ports or permanently reducing hours, let’s have this debate. We’ve had this before. We’ve won. And we’ll have it again, and we’ll win again.” the tester. “But the main thing is to close the ports to keep the hours down because the pandemic, I think, is a mistake.”
Tester also opposes efforts to lift the immigration provisions of “Title 42” without having a better staffing and security plan along the northern border.