New border crossing ID announced
In a press conference Tuesday with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff announced a new passport card as an affordable option for crossing the border when new regulations come into effect in 2008.
“By the end of this year, our departments anticipate issuing a new, inexpensive, secure travel card for land border crossings that will meet the documentation requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, but in a way that does not necessarily require people to have passports of the traditional kind,“ Chertoff said. “This new People Access Security Service, or PASS, system card will be particularly useful for those citizens in border communities who regularly cross northern and southern borders every day as an integral part of their daily lives. We’re talking about essentially like the kind of driver’s license or other simple card identification that almost all of us carry in our wallets day in and day out.”
Representative Rick Larsen was skeptical about the proposal. “Today’s proposed State Department and Department of Homeland Security ‘Joint Vision’ raises more questions than it answers about how we deal with cross-border travel and trade in a post-9/11 world,” he said in a statement released following the announcement. “It will erect enormous roadblocks for cross-border travel surrounding the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.”
Larsen communications director Abbey Levenshus said the new passport card only addressed a small slice of cross-border travel. “It seems like it’s a frequent land-border crosser program and we already have great ones,” she said, like NEXUS and FAST. “You’re not getting to the root of the problem.”
Larsen, as co-chair of the state’s 2010 Olympics Task Force, was especially concerned that travelers to the games who may never have crossed the border won’t know about the new regulations, and what they need to comply with them.
“The administration must provide more document options, more implementation time and more details on the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative,” Larsen said. “As it stands now there are far too many questions and far too little lime to get them answered.”
For new Blaine Chamber of Commerce president Gail Kruk, the proposal only addresses half the problem for businesses in Whatcom County who look to Canada for a portion of their customers. The card is only available to U.S. citizens and as of January 2008 under the current strategy all Canadians coming south will need a passport. “For some people it is going to be the breaking point,” Kruk said of the expense and inconvenience of getting a Canadian passport, which costs $90 and is good for five years. “You would think they would be working on a joint piece of identification that would work for Canadians and Americans, like NEXUS,” she said.
At the Bellingham Convention and Visitors Bureau John Cooper speculated the Canadians could have their own card. “I think we’ve opened the door to that possibility if the U.S. would recognize such a card,” he said. “Anything we can do to keep it moving.”
Chertoff said, “the PASS system is an important first step in implementing a broader shared vision for a unified, user-friendly system for trusted travelers,” and that the state and homeland security departments would develop a “global enrollment network that will unify our various registered traveler programs into a single comprehensive system.”
While Chertoff made no mention of plans to work on an easier identification solution for Canadians under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, he did say that “we continue to consult very closely with our Canadian and Mexican partners in the Security and Prosperity Partnership and with our other allies in this part of the world about how to best facilitate border movement in a way that is consistent with the law and security.”