Pass­ports now re­quired to en­ter U.S. from Canada, Mex­ico, Ber­muda

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jerry Seper

All cit­i­zens of the United States, Canada, Mex­ico and Ber­muda will be re­quired to present a pass­port to en­ter Amer­ica when ar­riv­ing by air from any part of the West­ern Hemi­sphere be­gin­ning Jan. 23, the Home­land Se­cu­rity and State de­part­ments an­nounced Nov. 22.

“The abil­ity to mis­use travel doc­u­ments to en­ter this coun­try opens the door for a ter­ror­ist to carry out an at­tack,” Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Michael Chertoff said. “We can­not con­tinue to al­low loop­holes that could fa­cil­i­tate ac­cess to the United States through false claims of cit­i­zen­ship or fake iden­ti­ties.”

The pass­port re­quire­ment, part of the de­part­ments’ West­ern Hemi­sphere Travel Ini­tia­tive (WHTI), came about as a re­sult of rec­om­men­da­tions made by the Septem­ber 11 com­mis­sion. The re­quire­ment was passed into law as part of the Intelligence Re­form and Ter­ror­ism Pre­ven­tion Act of 2004.

The WHTI re­quires all cit­i­zens of the United States, Canada, Mex­ico and Ber­muda to have a pass­port or other ac­cepted doc­u­ment that es­tab­lishes the bearer’s iden­tity and na­tion­al­ity to en­ter or reen­ter the United States from within the West­ern Hemi­sphere.

Jan­ice Kephart, for­mer coun­sel to the Septem­ber 11 com­mis­sion and a na­tion­ally rec­og­nized border-se­cu­rity ex­pert, told a House Ju­di­ciary sub­com­mit­tee this year that WHTI closed loop­holes that ter­ror­ists could use to en­ter the United States.

“An ex­tremely large loophole that still ex­ists to­day here in the U.S., and which WHTI seeks to close, is the pol­icy and prac­tices that per­mit any­one claim­ing to be from the West­ern Hemi­sphere to present eas­ily forged doc­u­ments, or noth­ing at all, to en­ter the U.S.,” she said.

Al­though no travel doc­u­ment is per­fect, pass­ports have fea­tures that other forms of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, such as birth cer­tifi­cates or driver’s li­censes, do not, Ms. Kephart said. Pass­ports de­note cit­i­zen­ship; can be checked through crim­i­nal and ter­ror­ist watch lists and alerts; na­tional records are main­tained of the pass­ports’ own­ers, so re­ported lost and stolen pass­ports can be bet­ter tracked in­ter­na­tion­ally; and they have par­tic­u­lar se­cu­rity fea­tures that are more dif­fi­cult to forge.

Of­fi­cials at Home­land Se­cu­rity said lim­it­ing the types of doc­u­ments pre­sented will re­sult in a more ef­fi­cient border, not­ing that there are cur­rently more than 8,000 dif­fer­ent state and lo­cal en­ti­ties in the United States that is­sue birth cer­tifi­cates and driver’s li­censes.

U.S. Cus­toms and Border Pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers in­ter­cepted more than 75,000 fraud­u­lent doc­u­ments in fis­cal 2005 and ap­pre­hended more than 84,000 peo­ple at the ports of en­try try­ing to cross the border with fraud­u­lent claims of cit­i­zen­ship or doc­u­ments.

A sep­a­rate pro­posed rule ad­dress­ing land and sea travel is ex­pected to go into ef­fect in Jan­uary 2008, when U.S. cit­i­zens trav­el­ing be­tween this coun­try and Canada, Mex­ico, Cen­tral and South Amer­ica, the Caribbean and Ber­muda by land or sea will be re­quired to present a valid U.S. pass­port or other doc­u­ments ap­proved by Home­land Se­cu­rity.

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