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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 19, 2006

Schumer To Prez: Passport Cards Not The Right Alternative To Protect Northern Border Commerce

This Week, U.S. State Department Unveiled The ‘New’ Passport Card That Is Expensive, Inconvenient And Doesn’t Take Into Account The Needs Of Families

Senator: Passport Card Is Simply A Passport In Sheep’s Clothing – Feds Must Go Back To The Drawing Board Find A Real Alternative That Protects Both Security And Commerce

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today told President George W. Bush that passport cards are not the right alternative to passports to protect Northern Border commerce. This week, the U.S. Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced they are moving forward with plans for a passport card as the “alternative” to a passport to be used at the Northern Border under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. In a personal letter to the President, Schumer said the passport card will take as long to obtain and a passport, is expensive and doesn’t take into account the needs of families in border communities.

“The passport card is simply a Passport in sheep’s clothing,” Schumer said. “The passport card is nothing more than a wallet sized passport, which will still take as long as a passport to acquire and is still far too expensive for American families to obtain. The feds need to go back to the drawing board and find a real alternative that protects both security and commerce.”

Schumer said the passport card is unacceptable because it fails to address the challenges of additional document requirements at the Northern Border. Specifically, the cost of $45 for adults and $35 for children. In addition, the application time needed to obtain the passport card, which the State Department indicated will be the same time as a passport, makes the card inconvenient to obtain and creates a situation in which families must plan for a routine visit across the border a long time in advance. The State Department’s plan does not provide any alternative procedures or special considerations for children or senior citizens. School trips, sports teams and organized excursions make up much of the tourist trade along the northern border. Requiring the equivalent of a passport will make these trips either too expensive or too cumbersome for travelers to make. The economies of communities on both sides of the border will suffer. Therefore, Schumer said whatever plan is finally developed, it must include provisions to make it easier and less costly for seniors and minors to obtain the proper documents.

When the Administration first proposed requiring passports along the Northern Border, President Bush immediately criticized the plan, saying that “When I first read that in the newspaper, about the need to have passports … I said, what's going on here. I thought there was a better way … to expedite [the] legal flow of traffic and people … if people have to have a passport, it's going to disrupt [the] honest flow of traffic.”

“However, 19 months after he directed DHS and the State Department to find a different plan for WHTI, the only solution they have come up with is to make the passport smaller,” said Schumer.

Last month, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed legislation that extends the deadline for WHTI implementation until June 2009 in order to give DHS and State the time they need to develop a solution that will improve border security without so severely disrupting commercial and passenger traffic. Schumer said the State Department’s passport card proposal ignores this mandate and it is unacceptable that they would move forward on a plan developed under the previous constrained deadlines now that more time has been afforded to them to develop a system that will actually protect commerce and improve security at the same time.

“I fear this system will have a crippling effect on the economy of border communities. I worry will severely impact on the number of cross border trips and the tourism industry in particular. I fully support efforts to improve security along our borders, however we must at the same time protect commerce and the way of life along the border,” Schumer added.

In a personal letter to President George W. Bush, Schumer wrote, “Today, Mr. President, I ask that you send a message to DHS and to State that they must once again go back to the drawing board to find a real solution for WHTI that will both improve security and protect commerce. You have demonstrated leadership on this issue in the past and I ask that you do so again now. Congress and your pen have given DHS and State the time to solve this problem and I hope that you will instruct them to use it.”

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