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Schumer Releases: "The Worst Of Both Worlds" Report Detailing How DHS' Ill-Devised Plan Brings Poor Security And Long-Delays To NY's Northern Border

Report Shines Light on Sec. Chertoff's Pattern of Hypocrisy, Details his Own Past Testimony Questioning the Security and Efficiency of Using Birth Certificates

Report Documents Instances where Criminals Have Been Arrested Using Forged Birth Certificates When Traveling into the United States

Report Details how Already Long Waits at the Northern Border will, in Chertoff's Words, "Only Grow Worse" Under the New Restrictions

One day before new border restrictions are implemented along New York State’s northern border that both jeopardize security and cross-border commerce, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today released a report titled “The Worst of Both Worlds” detailing the plan’s shortcomings. Despite repeated warnings from Schumer and fellow congress members, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has insisted on forcing New Yorkers traveling between Canada and the United States to show a birth certificate, a plan that is plagued by security problems and can create long waits at the border.


Making matters worse, the Secretary of DHS, Michael Chertoff, in swore testimony has personally stressed security concerns surrounding the easy to forge birth certificates and has also recently admitted border waits will grow worse under the new rule. 


Schumer, who has relentlessly pressured DHS to wave the birth certificate requirement until the more secure People Access Security Service (PASS) Cards are available for all New Yorkers, today issued a report titled “The Worst of Both Worlds.”


The goal of the report is to offer a concise summary of how the birth certificate plan will both undermine New York State’s border security while causing long backlogs that threaten cross-border commerce. The report also outlines the direct hypocrisy Chertoff has displayed in insisting on implementing a requirement that he himself admitted suffered from insecurity and inefficiency.


“The Department of Homeland Security has decided to toss logic to the wind and ram this ill-devised restriction down the throat of all New Yorkers,” said Senator Schumer. “Plain and simple, this plan is the worst of both worlds: it promotes the use of easy-to-forge documents to travel into our country, and it threatens to create huge backlogs at our border communities that stifles cross-border commerce.”




U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer


Schumer Report on Chertoff’s Hypocrisy and DHS’ ill-devised plan that will bring longer wait times and increased security threats to NYS’ northern border



A. Chertoff Himself Admits, Birth Certificates are Easy to Forge and Will Cause Wait Times to Skyrocket


On a June 20, 2007 press conference, Chertoff used birth certificates to illustrate the need for secure and machine-readable documents. He showed up with four binders full of just birth certificates issued by counties in Texas, demonstrating the identification’s insecure nature:


“But right now at the land and seaports we’re talking about 8,000 different kinds of documentation…What it means is that there’s no way that even the most accomplished Customs and Border Protection officer can be familiar with all those documents and in a position to quickly confirm whether they are real or fake. That puts us at a disadvantage because it leaves the door open for the rampant use of fraudulent documents. It forces officers to eyeball individual documents to try to figure out if these 8,000 documents are legitimate or illegitimate. That slows down the process of crossing the border. And all of this amounts to a greater increase in the risk to our nation and to our citizens.”


In an AP article on January 17, 2008, Chertoff himself said that longer lines at the border as a result of the new policy are inevitable.


 “Until people get the message, there will be some delays.”



B. Ability to Forge Birth Certificates Will Threaten Security Across Upstate


  • A simple Internet search will turn up multiple websites from which “birth certificates” can be purchased that are not easily identified as fake or novelty documents. It is even possible to purchase false certificates that are “certified” with a raised seal that gives the appearance of authenticity.


  • It takes more time to examine documents like birth certificates than machine-readable documents like the new PASS Cards or ePassports.


  • According to a report by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2000, fraudulent birth certificates are used as “breeder documents” to obtain genuine documents needed to create new identities:


      • 6,422 different entities issue birth certificates. This large number of State, county, city, township, and other entities that issue birth certificates increases opportunities for fraud, theft, bribery, and other methods of illegally obtaining birth certificates;
      • Thirteen States allow “open” access to birth records, which allows virtually anyone to purchase copies of any birth certificates on file; and
      • Birth certificates can be purchased without identification from some vital records offices and issuing entities.


  • The same report detailed how difficult birth certificate fraud is to detect:


§         Over 14,000 different versions of birth certificates are in circulation

§         Nearly 4 million United States births were registered in 1999

§         Security features contained in the paper used to issue birth certificates, as well as formats and signatures, vary among State vital records offices and the many local entities issuing them;

§         Technological advances in the Internet, scanners, color printers, and copiers make it easier to obtain genuine birth certificates and create counterfeit ones;

§         Between 85 and 90 percent of the birth certificate fraud encountered by the Immigration and Naturalization Services and Passport Services staff is the result of genuine birth certificates held by imposters -- the most difficult fraud to detect; and

§         Federal and State agency staff report receiving only limited training focused on the detection of fraudulent birth certificates.



C. Focusing on Staffing Levels and Training would be More Effective Step in Addressing Both Security and Wait Times at Border Crossings


  • Most border crossings are by land, putting significant stress on staffing levels. In FY2005, 74% of border crossings were by land (317,765,246 entries), 20% were by air (86,123,406 entries), and 6% were by sea (26,228,248). The result are CBP staffs unequipped to handle constant influx of people, causing wait times to skyrocket and security to falter.


  • GAO Report highlighted CBP understaffing and other issues. Addressing the staffing shortfalls would be a more effective course of action in securing our borders.


CBP officials showed us a videotape that identified numerous examples of officers not establishing the nationality of individuals and their eligibility for entering the country as required by law.”


“The results of the staffing model indicate that CBP may need anywhere from about 1,700 to about 5,000 additional officers at ports of entry…. Not having sufficient staff… makes it difficult for ports of entry to fully carry out anti-terrorism and other traveler inspection programs. The problems are exacerbated by difficulties in retaining experienced staff.”


  • The GAO testified in August 2006 (GAO-06-976T) on an undercover investigation where they tried to enter the United States using fake birth certificates and licenses that they created with commercially available software. They were successful at all nine ports of entry they tried, including two in New York. The GAO investigators presented fake birth certificates several times during the investigation, and the CBP never recognized them as fakes. “Furthermore, our periodic tests since 2002 clearly show that CBP officers are unable to effectively identify counterfeit driver’s licenses, birth certificates, and other documents,” they wrote.


  • The San Diego Union-Times reported in 2005 that the FBI had caught a Mexican man who used a fake birth certificate to get hired by the CBP and who then smuggled illegal aliens across the border. If the agency can’t even recognize birth certificate fraud among its job applicants, how will it among thousands of border travelers?



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