A Lonely Christmas for Families Separated by Closed Borders

A Lonely Christmas for Families Separated by Closed Borders
U.S. Customs officers speak with people in a car beside a sign saying that the U.S./Canada border is closed in Lansdowne, Ontario, Canada, on March 22, 2020. (Lars Hagberg/AFP via Getty Images)
Jamie Joseph

This will be the first year Rancho Cucamonga resident and kindergarten teacher Kent Russell will be separated from his family for the holidays.

He moved to California 20 years ago, and usually returns to his native Canada for a couple weeks for Christmas and New Year’s. With COVID-19 restrictions in place, he’s unable to cross the border to see his family.

His daughter, 23, lives in Vancouver, Canada, and she recently had a baby. Russell won’t be able to see his new grandchild, and it will be a lonely holiday for him.

“I don’t have any family down here,” he told The Epoch Times. “This year will be the first year in my life I haven’t been there, so I’m starting to get emotional about Christmas.”

The separation this year is affecting many immigrant families.

On Nov. 19, Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said in a tweet, “In order to continue to prevent the spread of COVID, the US, Mexico, & Canada will extend the restrictions on non-essential travel through Dec 21.”

Usually separated by great distances and busy schedules, Christmas is the only time Russell gets to reunite with friends and family up north. “It’s one time of the year when everybody seems to come together,” he said.

“We’d have Christmas dinner with the family, ... go and get the tree, decorate it together. I get to see my friends that I haven’t seen in quite a while.”

He doesn’t have any plans for the holidays now, he said. “There is nothing I could do, that I could put in place, that would make me feel any better.”

Dominic, who preferred not to have his last name published, is restricted from traveling within the United States to see his family. He works for the Department of Defense (DOD), and he told The Epoch Times the DOD has prohibited him from traveling to states with high infection rates.

He won’t be able to travel from Maryland to California to see his family for the holidays.

He also has family in Mexico who would usually drive up to San Diego to spend the holidays with him. He said he’s crushed that won’t be happening this year.

“I was definitely looking forward to spending my time with my family this year. It’s pretty upsetting,” he told The Epoch Times.

“I mean, at the end of the day, it is what it is. But it is pretty upsetting that there are all these restrictions put into place that are preventing people to be able to see their families for a virus that has a high infectious rate, but the mortality rates are not that high,” he said.

Leslie Ann Barker, another Canadian immigrant who came to California a decade ago, won’t be able to reunite with her son and two daughters for the holidays this year.

Her son lives in Seattle and her two daughters have lived overseas for the past ten years.

Because they’re so spread out, they don’t usually all get together. Last Christmas was the first in 15 years that they were all together. But being unable to see any of them this year is hard.

The family has been trying to reunite since May to no avail, Barker said, as flights kept getting canceled.

Barker said she understands the concerns over the virus, though. Health issues in her family make her sensitive to the risk of contact and travel. Her son has asthma and she has diabetes.

“It’s just hard psychologically, but you know I have health issues ... and I can’t risk getting anything,” Barker said.

At the same time, she feels the government is generally overreaching its power in keeping families apart.

“The freedom has been taken away both by the government and just by the concern of actually catching this virus, and our freedoms are diminishing. It’s a frightening thing,” she said.

At the very least, though, “I can talk with them via video. I’m very thankful for that.”

Jamie is a California-based reporter covering issues in Los Angeles and state policies for The Epoch Times. In her free time, she enjoys reading nonfiction and thrillers, going to the beach, studying Christian theology, and writing poetry. You can always find Jamie writing breaking news with a cup of tea in hand.
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