BISMARCK, N.D. – In a video conference call today requested by Gov. Doug Burgum, the governor urged U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Chris Magnus to restore pre-pandemic hours of operation at several ports of entry on the U.S.-Canada border where hours were reduced in April 2020.
Today’s meeting followed a letter Burgum sent to Magnus and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in late April, in which Burgum noted that of the 10 U.S. ports of entry into North Dakota where hours were reduced, nine of the reductions ranged from four hours to six hours. The letter came after CBP informed the state Tourism Division it had no plans to change the hours at any ports of entry in North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, Idaho or Washington.
“We’re here today to start a collaboration on what can we do together to try to get back to the pre-pandemic hours. Our estimate is that we’ve probably lost close to $300 million of tourism business,” Burgum said during the call, noting cross-border transportation also is important for agriculture, health care and other sectors. “Their economies are deeply intertwined along those border communities. So, with the reduction of hours and the closures, it’s been a great hardship, and then you throw on top of that some of the pandemic restrictions. Part of our request is how do we begin a dialogue where we can return to the pre-pandemic hours and remove some of these restrictions.”
Burgum said the state also is open to exploring how technology can play a role in helping to keep border crossings open, especially in low population areas.
Magnus, who served as Fargo’s police chief from August 1999 to January 2006, indicated the CBP is open to dialogue on the crossing hours at the 310-mile border between North Dakota and Canada and has been actively assessing crossing traffic volumes.
The governor and commissioner also discussed the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, where 125 soldiers from the North Dakota National Guard’s 957th Engineer Company were deployed last October on a yearlong mission to support CBP.