New border crossing ID rules begin January 31
For those who doubt the need or utility of new border ID requirements, Department of Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff has just two words for you: Grow up!
Speaking to reporters in Washington D.C. on January 17, Chertoff said “It’s time to grow up and recognize that if we’re serious about this threat, we’ve got to take reasonable, measured but nevertheless determined, steps to getting better security.”
Chertoff was addressing DHS plans to require all travelers, U.S. as well as other nationalities, to present proof of citizenship when entering the U.S. Not wanting to be remiss in the maturation process, the Point Roberts border station hauled two busloads of students off the buses and into the port building Friday, January 18 to let them know in no uncertain terms what would be required by way of identification.
Effective January 31, oral declarations of U.S. or Canadian citizenship will be insufficient to gain entry into the states. Travelers will require a passport or a government-issued photo ID and a document to prove citizenship. Children under the age of 19 will only be required to carry proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate. According to a letter from Blaine port director Margaret Fearon to the Blaine school district, “trusted traveler program cards - NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST - will continue to be accepted for cross-border travel.”
Other options include U.S. military ID with travel orders, native American tribal photo ID, American Indian card (Form i-872), U.S. merchant mariner document and enhanced driver licenses. The Washington state department of licensing is now accepting appointments in February for enhanced driver license applications. Under an agreement with DHS, the new (and more expensive) licenses include nationality information.
Officials expect the new rules to lead to increased border delays until travelers get used to carrying the required documents and are able to produce them in a timely fashion for border inspections.
The rules are being implemented as part of a transition to Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) rules that call for land and sea visitors to the U.S. to produce passports on entering the country. Congress has delayed implementation of that rule until June 2009.
The new document rules are not without controversy. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy denounced Chertoff’s decision stating that it was against the will of Congress, poorly planned and “with concerns about a recession on the way, the timing for clamping down on billions of dollars in trade and travel could not be worse,” he said January 17. Towns and businesses situated along the border have decried the new rules, expressing doubt that they will result in enhanced security.
What is not clear is what the economic affect of the new rules will be. A study conducted for the Conference Board of Canada projected that there would be a 11.5 percent drop in Canadian visits between 2008 and 2010 due to WHTI implementation.
The Blaine school district has been working with the local port to ensure a smooth transition to the new rules. District superintendent Ron Spanjer said the district has sent two letters to Point Roberts parents letting them know of the new rules and plans to followup with phone calls to those parents who have not yet submitted copies of the required documents. Contrary to what students were told Friday when they were called into the Point Roberts port building, the students will not have to carry original citizenship documents. According to Spanjer, the bus driver will hold copies of the documents in case they are requested. “We do not intend to challenge people at the border,” said Spanjer. “If we don’t have the citizenship document, we won’t be transporting the student until the documents are in.”
Copies are sufficient for children traveling on the school bus. Original documents must be produced for all other crossings.