Cross-border couple kept apart despite easing of COVID-19 restrictions
Couple says immigration interview cancelled due to the novel coronavirus
It's been three long months for Kingsville resident Cody Soulliere, 27, and his American husband, Ryan Knierim, 33, who haven't seen each other in person due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Despite loosening of the restrictions which allow American spouses to cross the border and enter the country, Knierim — who works as an assembly line worker at the Jeep plant in Toledo, OH — said he still can't visit because of the 14-day self-isolation period that visitors must abide by.
He says he can't take that much time off work.
The couple started dating in 2017 and married the following year, and said they filed their paperwork so that Soulliere could immigrate to the U.S.
"After about a year and a half of filing, I finally got my interview at the U.S. [Consulate] that was scheduled for March 23rd, and it's the last step of your immigration process," Soulliere said.
"And five days before, I received a notification that it was cancelled just because of the pandemic. So, that was quite the blow. And then, Ryan and I found out that the border would be closing as well to U.S. citizens. So, he was no longer able to cross into Canada."
"It's very frustrating," Knierim said. "Obviously, we want to see each other and there are many other families out there that are torn apart."
The couple said they call and text each other every day, but being physically apart has been hard on the both of them.
"It was stressful at the start because every month, you know, we were waiting to see if ... the government would allow spouses to come in or if they would start to ease border restrictions. But, every month that passed by, they kept extending it," Soulliere said.
"It just takes a toll on your mental health a little bit, especially because we were so close to the finish line in this case. And I haven't been able to see him. He's missed a couple of birthdays, Mother's Day, Father's Day [which is] coming up."
'Love is essential'
The couple said they hope by sharing their story, others in similar situations will speak up and raise awareness of the issue.
"Hopefully, maybe the government will see this and they'll understand that love is essential no matter where you live and there's got to be something else that they can look at doing to allow us to see each other," Soulliere said.
"We get the precautions being put in place, Knierim said, "but can we, maybe, add a procedure at the border to, you know, take our temperature? Make sure that we're not sick and, you know, we're feeling okay?"
"I think [for] family members and spouses, I think there should be an exception to the rule to not have to quarantine for two weeks because we can't take two weeks off of work ... especially not on a whim," he said.
"We would just like the opportunity to be able to see each other without all these restrictions put place," Knierim said.
"If we're healthy, I don't see why not?"