Starting Thursday, U.S. and Canadian citizens crossing the international border will be required to present either a passport or a government-issued photo ID, plus proof of citizenship. The new requirements are only an interim step to eventual compliance with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). Travelers under 18 are required only to have proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate. Previously an oral declaration was all that was required.
More than 1 million personal vehicles entered the United States through one of Minnesota’s eight border crossing locations every year. The new requirements have many residents near the border concerned, particularly in the Northwest Angle.
Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn, expressed his disapproval of the temporary program through an op-ed in the International Falls Daily Journal and argued that the Department of Homeland Security must “devise a system that strikes the right balance between protecting our national security and ensuring the economic vitality of border communities.”
I am disappointed with the way that DHS has developed this temporary screening process. According to a recent report by the General Accountability Office, DHS does not have the resources or manpower to make the plan work smoothly. I am concerned this will result in long lines at the border that will hamper the movement of people and goods and harm the economies of border communities like International Falls.
Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff recently lashed out at such criticism. “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,” he told the Associated Press.
Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn, responded by saying, “Secretary Chertoff’s comments that those objecting to the plan need to ‘grow up’ indicates that the department still doesn’t understand the practical effects of DHS policies on the everyday lives of border community residents.”
By June 2009 full compliance with WHTI will require travelers to present a passport, NEXUS, FAST or SENTRI card when entering the United States. On Friday the Department of State will begin accepting applications for a new passport card.