News and HeadlinesNational PoliticsThe Race


How separated families are coping with the border closure

boarder families
Posted at 2:02 PM, Jul 16, 2021

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Love knows no bounds, but for many, the northern border closure has certainly gotten in the way of it.

The Driscoll family traveled all the way from Winston-Salem North Carolina to the US-Canadian border in northern Vermont to see their family from nearby Sherbrooke, Quebec.

"We haven't seen each other since Christmas 2019. Decided to come as close as possible to one another to celebrate our son's birthday. That's what we're doing," said Marie-Claude Driscoll along side her husband, son and daughter.

The Driscoll's communicated with Marie-Claude's parents and sister over yellow tape placed across a portion of the US-Canadian border where there is no fencing. An official crossing was about 100 feet away and under watch by U.S. Border Patrol

Underneath a 'no loitering' sign and with permission from nearby border agents, the family reminisced in a mixture of English and French, celebrating, although they’ve been denied the hugging and hand-holding that others in the United States have been able to experience thanks to the vaccine.

Across Lake Champlain in Northern New York, another family is facing a similar struggle.

Pictures and videos are the only way that Pam and Dennis Lefebvre have been getting their fill of their daughter and young granddaughter for a year and a half, more than half the girl’s life. They live in Plattsburgh NY, her daughter’s family in Ontario Canada.

"It's been just agony and really, you know, missing milestones, birthdays, Christmas," said Dennis. "Just waiting for pictures from Canada so we can see what she's doing and how much she's grown."

"Just how much more are we going to miss? We've missed a lot," said Pam.

The border has been closed since March of 2020. The original closure was only supposed to last a month, but one month has stretched into 16. Recently, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that vaccinated Americans may be able to cross into Canada by the end of August. The next official announcement regarding the border opening will come on July 21, but the grandparents aren’t holding their breath.

"What if she really needed us and we can't get there? And I know those stories are happening and it's got to I can't even imagine, it's just so inhumane," said Pam.

Devon Weber is from New York City but lives with her husband and child in Montreal. Just like the LeFebvres or the Driscolls, she is separated from her family. Last October, she started Let Us Reunite, a grassroots lobbying effort to get the border open to families as soon as possible. It now represents 2,500 families across the US and Canada.

"To suddenly be separated from their family with no idea when the border is going to open. And no plan from either government on what the requirements were to open the border has been extremely frustrating for people," said Weber.

They’ve gotten attention from some lawmakers, the latest being senate majority leader Chuck Schumer. They’ve been working for months to petition President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau to let families visit each other.

Whether it’s through pictures or conversations across physical barriers, families hope their patience will soon be rewarded

"We're just, just hoping that by the end of the summer, things kind of get back to closer to normal," said Marie-Claude.