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White House warns protests at US-Canada border crossings already causing ‘significant impacts’ to some industries

<i>Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>Protestors against Covid-19 vaccine mandates block the roadway at the Ambassador Bridge border crossing in Windsor
AFP via Getty Images
Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images
Protestors against Covid-19 vaccine mandates block the roadway at the Ambassador Bridge border crossing in Windsor

By Betsy Klein, CNN

The Biden administration is “very closely” monitoring the protests at US-Canada border crossings in which standoffs have emerged over vaccine mandates and other issues, threatening supply chains and other major disruptions, a White House official told CNN.

“We know that a number of companies and industries are seeing significant impacts from these disruptions. The Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Council, Department of Transportation and the National Economic Council are working collaboratively — including with their Canadian counterparts at all levels — to rapidly develop a set of options that match current industry demands — including alternative routes and other scenario planning,” the official said.

For nearly two weeks, Canadian truckers have been protesting a new rule that requires them to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or face a two-week quarantine in their homes after they return across the US-Canadian border. Others have joined to rally against mask mandates, lockdowns, restrictions on gatherings and other Covid-19 preventative efforts in the country.

Demonstrations have popped up across Canada, including at the Ambassador Bridge, which links Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit and is the busiest international crossing in North America. Idling trucks and vehicles impeded access to the bridge for a third day Wednesday, snarling traffic on both sides of the border.

President Joe Biden is “being regularly briefed” on the matter and, on Thursday morning, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke separately with their Canadian counterparts, the official said, “urging them to use Federal powers to resolve this situation at our joint border and offering the full support of our Homeland Security and Transportation departments.”

Biden’s homeland security adviser, Liz Sherwood-Randall, will also speak with her Canadian counterpart this evening, per the White House.

Administration officials are also in “close touch” with American auto companies, shippers, business and trade associations, labor unions, and agricultural groups, among others, about the blockages.

“We are principally focused on resolving the blockage at the Ambassador Bridge as well as other ports of entry,” the official said.

Though the Ambassador Bridge is closed as of Thursday afternoon, the detour port — Port Huron, Michigan, which is north of Detroit — “is fully operational,” the White House said, citing some “higher than normal traffic” in the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel that connects the US and Canada under the Detroit River.

The Department of Homeland Security is “aware” of reports of the organizing of a similar “Freedom Convoy” event set to take place in Washington, DC, next month, and “and is taking all necessary steps to ensure that the convoy does not disrupt lawful trade and transportation or interfere with federal government and law enforcement operations and emergency services.”

CNN reported Wednesday that the Department of Homeland Security is warning the convoy could disrupt traffic around the Super Bowl on Sunday in Los Angeles, and also possibly create issues in other major US cities. The official noted that the department “is surging additional staff to its Incident Command Post.”

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CNN’s Paula Newton, Aya Elamroussi and Paul P. Murphy contributed to this report.

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