Ongoing U.S. border closure 'unnecessary' and 'cruel': Point Roberts residents

The ongoing closure of the U.S. land border is a "cruel and unusual and unnecessary punishment" to the people who live in Point Roberts, according to the American town's Chamber of Commerce president.

Brian Calder says the border community now resembles a "ghost town," 19 months after the border was closed to Canadians.

"Point Roberts is treated the worst in North America, vis-à-vis collapsing our businesses and bankrupting them," Calder said.

He says the situation has worsened since early August, when the Canadian government allowed fully-vaccinated U.S. citizens to cross the border for non-essential travel. Businesses like the town's only grocery store were hit even harder.

Ali Hayton, owner of the Point Roberts Marketplace, said business was already down by around 70 per cent over summer, and in the summer of 2020.

"On Aug. 9, when Canada said that Point Roberts residents could come into Canada, we dropped another 30 per cent from what we already thought was the bottom of the barrel."

Calder and Hayton say the current rules make no sense. Canadians are not permitted to drive across a land border for non-essential travel, but can fly. To get to the pene-exclave of Point Roberts, a fully-vaccinated Canadian citizen could fly from YVR to Seattle or Bellingham, and then on to Point Roberts.

Hayton says the rule also doesn't make sense because a Canadian citizen would have to be fully vaccinated to re-enter Canada once crossing the border to Point Roberts.

She believes there is "no real danger to anyone."

Point Roberts has recently gained attention from lawmakers in Washington State. Governor Jay Inslee visited over the summer and last week wrote his third letter to the White House asking for an exemption to be granted.

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about Point Roberts during a briefing. Specifically, she was asked if she could explain why under the current rules Canadians, could not drive across a land border, but could still fly.

"It's determined by our public health officials and our objective, of course, is to return to overland travel, just like we're working to return to international, but we leave it to them to make that determination," Psaki said.

The current U.S. border closure is in place until at least Oct. 21.