Thursday, 28 September 2006
Passports for travel between the USA, Canada, Mexico, etc.
If the USA government has its way, all citizens of the USA -- regardless of age, dual citizenship, etc. -- will need U.S. passports for air travel between the USA and all other countries in the Western Hemisphere, effective 8 January 2007. No more trips by air or sea across the U.S. border with only a copy of a birth certificate, or no documents at all, as evidence of citizenship. And those citizens of Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda who (with varying restrictions) are currently able to fly to and from the USA without passports will no longer be allowed to do so.
Effective 1 January 2008, the same rule will apply for land border crossings between the USA and Canada and Mexico. If you don't have a passport, for whatever reason, you won't be allowed to enter, leave, or return to the USA. By any means, for any reason, at any time.
This Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) is a bad idea for lots of reasons, which I've spelled out in detailed comments I've filed with the relevant government departments earlier this week on behalf of the Identity Project .
The Regulations.gov Web site is buggy, only works with some browsers, and doesn't allow direct linking to specific documents. For the complete docket on this regulatory "rulemaking", check the box to search "All Documents (Open and Closed for Comment)" since comments on this have now closed, and search for keyword or ID "USCBP-2006-0097" (without the quotation marks).
Document USCBP-2006-0097-0001 is the"Notice of Proposed Rulemaking", and document USCBP-2006-0097-0002 is the 300-page "Regulatory Assessment" that purports to estimate its economic impact, but overlooks most of its actual consequences and costs. My comments are document USCBP-2006-0097-0097.1.
Most of the comments begin by pledging allegiance to "border security" and the surveillance/control goals of WHTI, and focus on the cost of compliance and the impact on cross-border trade and travel, especially between the USA and Canada, as highlighted in the official comments from Canada's Ambassador to the USA (USCBP-2006-0097-0093). Much of the cirticism focuses on the absurd omissions from the economic assessment. As the Binational Tourism Alliance (USCBP-2006-0097-0096.1) put it, "The economic impact study that has been undertaken to support these recommendations is seriously flawed and missing several key components required of a proper assessment. This ... makes a mockery of the entire process."
I found the comments of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (USCBP-2006-0097-0095.1) especially interesting. The AILA seems to be the only organization other than the Identity Project to mention the "rights to travel" and the "freedom of movement of people", and to argue that the proposed passport requirement should be reversed, not merely delayed.
In my comments, I mentioned the Schengen zone in Europe, where perimeter border and immigration controls for initial entry to the Schengen zone have been made more stringent, but controls within the zone have been relaxed so that citizens of Schengen countries (the name comes from the place where the treaty was signed) no longer need passports for cross-border travel within the Schengen zone. The AILA has a much more detailed description and endorsement of the Schengen system, although without any explicit reference to its potential applicability as a model for travel within the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) area of Canada, the USA, and Mexico.
[Addendum, 5 December 2006: The DHS has rejected our arguments out of hand.]Link | Posted by Edward on Thursday, 28 September 2006, 10:59 (10:59 AM) | TrackBack (0)