CIS Team Provides Rationale for Border Crossing Differences

By David North on July 13, 2020

Topic Page: Covid-19 and Immigration

Although pretty much the same American rules apply to the land border crossings on our north and on our south, the virus-caused restrictions on such traffic seem to be much more effective on the northern border than on the southern one, as we reported earlier.

The reductions from last April to this one were 70 percent on the southern border and 96 percent on the northern one. But why the big difference? (We used data from the five biggest ports of entry on each border.)

Using a little CIS teamwork, and some common sense, we have discovered two of the reasons why the traffic reductions at the northern border are so much greater, proportionately, than at the southern one.

When I learned that one of our virtual interns this year, Kevin Berghuis, had just returned to Toronto I asked about his civil status and he told me that he, a Dartmouth student, is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. I subsequently learned that dual citizens can enter any of the three countries under the new rules, and figured perhaps a lot of the traffic consists of such persons.

Then, in a conversation with CIS Director of Research Steven Camarota, I found that there is no count of dual citizens, but I might get a good sense of the relative size of the two populations if I looked at the number of foreign-born people in the United States from the two countries. "There must be a lot more from Mexico than from Canada," he said

He was right — the ratio is 15:1.

Then, in a further conversation with Berghuis I learned the other key fact: Those entering Canada from the United States have to self-quarantine for 14 days; those entering Mexico and the United States face no such restrictions. So dual citizens, among others, can move across one border much more easily than the other.

Then a third CIS player, virtual intern Jackson Koonce, gathered this new data for the month of May from the U.S. Department of Transportation, showing roughly comparable numbers to those we published earlier on the April crossings.

Border Crossings at
Major Land Ports of Entry,
May 2019 and May 2020

Border   May 2019
  May 2020
Five major southern
ports of entry
  8,639,066   3,359,995   -5,279,071   -61.10%
Five major northern
ports of entry
  2,210,380   85,002   -2,125,378   -96.20%

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation.

So the difference in the effectiveness of the traffic-slowing measures between the two borders may not have much to do with U.S. policy at all. Canada's stricter posture plus the much smaller size the population of dual citizens from Canada, as opposed to those from Mexico, may account for most — if not all — of the difference.

And this is a difference with a real difference, as a fourth colleague, Todd Bensman, has reported the arrival of a large number of virus cases over the southern border and no one has seen anything like that on the northern one.

If we could get Mexico to cause all those arriving from the United States to self-quarantine for 14 days it might help a lot. Given President Trump's desire to open the economy no matter what, we can't expect to replicate Canada's (sensible) universal requirement for 14 days of self-quarantine here.