“We Can’t Kiss Again”: Newlyweds Separated by Canada-United States Border Restrictions

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VANCOUVER –
Birgit Heinbach’s US husband Ian Geddes returned to Washington State in mid-March. They never imagined that they would end up stuck on different sides of the border.

But on March 21, the Canadian and American governments made the unprecedented decision to ban non-essential travel between the two countries for at least 30 days.

“It’s very difficult,” said Heinbach as he sat at a picnic table at the Peace Arch border crossing. “He’s really right across the border. “

Geddes lives in Blaine, while Heinbach is a permanent resident in Canada. The couple married on November 5, 2019, after years of waiting to be together, and worked to obtain an American green card for Heinbach.

“We got married because we want to help each other, stay with each other and support each other until death do us part,” she said. “If one of us fell ill, we would have no one to take care of each other. “

Heinbach is a physiotherapist in a nursing home for the aged in Delta. She lives in British Columbia. with his teenage son, but Geddes is alone with the only company of his dogs.

“Isolation is the hardest part,” he said during a video chat on WhatsApp. “It is extremely difficult for everyone, but knowing that my wife is 10 minutes away and I cannot see her is difficult enough. “

“Unfortunately, I currently have dozens of clients caught in these limbo,” said immigration attorney Len Saunders. “It’s like having the Berlin Wall again. “

Sanders said many of his clients were “blinded” by the move. “Because the borders closed so quickly,” he said, “they found themselves in a situation where they had no choice but to perhaps stay in the other country. “

He suggests that the two governments should make exceptions for couples who are currently in the immigration process. “These are individuals who wait months, sometimes up to a year, for their green cards to be processed,” he said. “A lot of these people, they don’t want to go back and forth every day, they’re very happy to quarantine for a few weeks or maybe even stay for a few months to mount this. “

The Canada Border and Services Agency told CTV News in a statement that exceptions “will be made for immediate family members of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident as long as their travel is deemed essential. The decision is at the discretion of the border services officer.

Heinbach has already tried to cross the border but has been refused.

“I want to follow strictly what our government says to do,” she said, “but I think there are situations where it would be nice to have an exception.”

Ian Geddes and Birgit Heinbach

The CBSA lists essential travel as:

  • Cross the border to work and study;

  • Economic services and supply chains;

  • Support for critical infrastructures;

  • Health (immediate medical care), safety and security;

  • Purchases of essential goods such as drugs or goods necessary to maintain the health and safety of an individual or a family; and

  • Other activities at the discretion of the BSO.

US Customs and the border patrol list essential travel as follows:

  • American citizens and legal permanent residents returning to the United States;

  • People traveling for medical purposes (for example, to receive medical treatment in the United States;

  • People traveling to attend educational institutions;

  • People traveling to work in the United States (for example, people working in agriculture or the agricultural industry who must travel between the United States and Mexico to advance this work);

  • People traveling for emergency response and public health purposes (for example, government officials or emergency responders entering the United States to support federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government efforts to respond to COVID-19 or other emergencies);

  • Individuals engaged in legal cross-border trade (for example, truck drivers supporting the movement of goods between the United States and Mexico);

  • People on official government trips or diplomatic trips;

  • Members of the United States armed forces, as well as the spouses and children of members of the United States armed forces, returning to the United States; and

  • People engaged in travel or military operations.

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