At Schumers Urging, Federal Officials Hold Meeting On Passport Proposal With North Country Leaders

Schumer Secured Meeting For Feds To Come To North Country To Discuss Passport Alternatives For Boarder CrossingsYesterday Schumer Questioned Chertoff At Judiciary Committee Hearing On Required Documentation At U.S.-Canada BorderSenator: We Must Find A Way To Secure The Border and Protect Commerce

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today testified via telephone at a meeting with officials from the U.S. Department of State who are in Plattsburgh to discuss the options for required documentation for travel at the U.S.Canada border. Alcy Frelick, Senior Advisor for the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) heard directly from North Country business and community leaders as they brainstorm options for secure documentation when crossing the border. Since September, Schumer and his staff had been aggressively lobbying officials to come to the North Country to discuss the passport proposal

We know that requiring passports could cripple the economy in upstate New York, and this meeting is an important step in making the opinions of residents of the North County are heard, Schumer said. This discussion will ensure that the federal agencies understand the implications this proposal has and how important crossborder commerce is to the North Country. We need to think of a plan that both secures the border but also protects commerce, since this could cause huge economic hardship from Buffalo to Plattsburgh and across the Canadian border. The Feds are here asking for suggestions and now New Yorkers to express directly to them how they will be impacted by this proposal directly.

On September 1st, when the Departments of State (DOS) and Homeland Security (DHS) initiated a public comment period on the WHTI, Schumer urged them to visit the North Country to hear directly from those impacted directly by the proposal. Schumer wanted community and business leaders to be able to express their concerns about the economic impact of the plan with those making the final determination. Schumer also launched a webpage to facilitate New Yorkers wishing to comment on the proposed Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. Linked from Schumers homepage, www.schumer.senate.gov, the website enables New Yorkers to participate in the public comment period, currently underway through the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State. The website has already elicited 400 responses.

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative will require all travelers, including U.S. citizens, to and from the Americas, the Caribbean, and Bermuda to have a passport or other accepted document that establishes the bearers identity and nationality to enter or reenter the United States. If implemented, this proposal would require anyone crossing the U.S.Canada border to show a passport or other accepted documentation, including SENTRI, NEXUS and FAST program cards. The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State are accepting public comment on this proposal. The public comment period ends October 31, 2005.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank my good friend Garry Douglas and the entire Plattsburgh North Country Chamber of Commerce for helping me organize this important meeting, Schumer said.

At Schumers urging, the Departments of Homeland Security and State are also working to determine acceptable alternative documents other than a passport. Senator Schumer has asked the federal agencies for a solution that both protects and secures the border and crossborder commerce. At Schumers urging, next week, Elaine Dezenski, Acting Assistant Secretary for Border and Transportation Security Policy, will visit Buffalo to discuss alternatives to passports with Western New York business and community leaders.

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