(by Jerry Seper, Jan. 28, 2008, WashingtonTimes.com) – Homeland Security officials will begin requiring proof of citizenship and identity for those entering the United States at the nation’s land ports of entry beginning Thursday, despite growing objections from Congress.
“We can no longer rely on the honor system when deciding who to let into the United States,” said Homeland Security Department spokeswoman Laura Keehner. “That’s why we will not waver in our commitment to move forward … requiring those claiming to be U.S. and Canadian citizens to present proof of citizenship and identity.
“Our critics are calling for an open border – and that is an outrageous claim that no one could reasonably accept,” she said. “They are hiding behind concerns about smooth implementation and economic impact. Do they really want anyone to be able to show up at a port of entry and proclaim they’re an American and get waved in?”
She was responding to complaints by Democratic and Republican members of Congress who have called on the department to halt its plan to institute the new border crossing requirements.
Beginning Thursday, U.S. and Canadian citizens 19 and older will be asked to prove their citizenship and identity from a list of acceptable documents, including passports, birth certificates and driver’s licenses. Those who do not may be delayed while U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers attempt to verify their identity and citizenship.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, accused Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff of “mismanagement,” saying the new program would “impose confusion and delays at the northern border.”
“The muddled thinking and poor planning at [the department] seems to have no bounds, and the agency that botched Katrina seems to have no shame and no memory to boot,” he said.
Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, New York Democrat and chairman of the House Rules Committee, said the plan violates the intent of Congress and threatens the nation’s economic security.
In a letter signed by Mrs. Slaughter and 32 other members of the bipartisan Northern Border Caucus, including seven Republicans, she called on Mr. Chertoff to continue accepting oral declarations and government-issued photo identification cards as proof of citizenship until full implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative in June 2009.
“As a northern border community, we truly understand the unique relationship we have with Canada – and see ourselves as one community with a river running through it,” she said. “Because of this relationship, it is vital that all we keep our borders open for the trade and travel.”
Ms. Keehner said it “is scary to think that some people have completely forgotten history and what happened to this nation less than seven years ago.”
Mrs. Slaughter noted that the 2008 omnibus appropriations bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush said the administration could not implement the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative – which requires all citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico and Bermuda to show identity and citizenship documents at the border – before June 1, 2009.
Mr. Chertoff ordered the department to begin asking for documents denoting citizenship and identity Thursday, saying requiring secure and reliable documents would “drastically reduce security vulnerabilities” posed by permitting entry based on oral declarations alone.
Copyright 2008 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times. This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization. Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com.
1. Starting Jan. 31, 2008, what will be required of U.S. and Canadian citizens entering the U.S. from Canada?
2. a) Who will be excluded from this new regulation?
b) What will be required from this excluded group?
(For the answer, visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website here –and scroll down to “U.S. and Canadian Citizens – Procedures for Children”)
3. a) Who is Patrick Leahy?
b) Why is Mr. Leahy opposed to the new DHS regulations at the Canadian Border?
4. a) Who is Louise Slaughter?
b) Why is Mrs. Slaughter opposed to the new DHS regulations?
5. What is Mrs. Slaughter (and 32 other members of Congress, 7 of whom are Republicans) calling on Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff to do?
6. What will be required of travelers under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative?
(For information on the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative click here.)
7. What was required of travelers crossing the Canadian border into the U.S. in the past?
8. Do you think Mr. Leahy and Mrs. Slaughter have legitimate reasons for opposing the new DHS regulations? Does the DHS have legitimate reasons for implementing these new rules? Do you support the new DHS requirement for travelers entering the U.S. from Canada? Explain your answers.
For further information on this new ID requirement, read the press release from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) here.
Visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website for a list of acceptable documents here.
For information on the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative click here.
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