Schumer Offers Bi-Partisan Amendment to Delay Passport Rule

Schumer's Amendment Mirrors His Legislation Announced Last Week to Delay Implementation of WHTI Until At Least June 2009Senator Says the Technology is Nowhere Near Ready to be Used and the Passport Requirement Would Cripple Cross Border Commerce for a Generation Schumer's Amendment Require that Any and All Technology Meets Rigorous Security and Efficiency Standards

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced he will introduce a bipartisan amendment to the 9/11 Recommendations Bill currently being debated on the Senate floor that would delay any implementation of Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) or any passport requirement at the Northern Border until at least June 2009. Schumer said his amendment is similar to legislation he announced last week during a visit to Buffalo. Schumer has raised serious concerns that DHS is trying to use a loophole in the law to act as early as January 2008 to impose a rule requiring travelers to present a passport when crossing the Northern Border, despite a troubling lack of preparation on DHS's part.

"We need to need to move fast to prevent DHS from ramming something through that would cripple crossborder commerce for a generation," Schumer said. "WHTI was poorly thought out from the getgo and any effort by DHS to rush this through must be stopped dead in its tracks. 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's amendment, which is cosponsored by Senator Olympia Snowe (RME), would move back implementation to no earlier than June 1, 2009. Schumer's amendment would also codify in to law the rule that kids don't need passports which was proposed by DHS last week, require card and document readers meet rigiourous international standards for security and efficiency, and enhance coordination with between existing trusted traveler programs (NEXUS, SENTRI, etc.) and WHTI.

Last week, Schumer's announced new comprehensive legislation would block any effort by DHS to implement a passport requirement before June 2009. Just last year, Congress pushed back the deadline for WHTI implementation from January 1, 2008 to June1, 2009 due to ample evidence that DHS would be hardpressed to meet the 2008 deadline. But under this amended law, DHS still has the discretion to finalize and impose the WHTI rules earlier if it can make specific certifications relating to the technology, reliability, and security of the system. DHS is known to be exploiting this provision of the law and rushing through development and planning in order to meet these requirements and start demanding passports at land borders in January 2008, a year and half early.

Schumer's legislation would minimize uncertainty and mandate that WHTI rules cannot be implemented at land crossings any earlier than June 1, 2009. This extra time is sorely needed for DHS to ensure that WHTI can be implemented without disrupting crossborder commerce and travel. In addition, DHS would have to certify six months in advance of final implementation that it has met comprehensive efficiency and security guidelines. If DHS fails to meet these standards prior to June 1, 2009, then WHTI cannot enter into force until DHS can meet these important guidelines.

The bill would state that any card or identification document required under WHTI as a passport alternative would cost the user no more than $20 for adults and would be free to children under the age of 18. If children under the age of 18 do not wish to obtain a PASS Card, then they would be exempt from the WHTI documentary requirement.

The United States and Canada have the largest binational trade relationship in the world. Trade with Canada supports an estimated 350,000 jobs in New York alone. Fully 25% of all New York State exports, accounting for $10.5 billion, go to Canada every year. The impact of tourism and spurofthemoment trips is also staggering with Canadians accounting for 2.2 million visits to New York in 2002 injecting $389 million into the local economies.

In January, Schumer submitted a formal comment criticizing the Department of State's proposed rule regarding the new PASS Card and laid out eight steps the State Department should take before any final rule is implemented. In his comment, Schumer said the proposed PASS Card will offer all of the inconvenience and inefficiencies of a standard passport book, while providing none of the security assurances for individuals' private information. Schumer, who added that PASS cards could be cost prohibitive for the average family, specifically asked that the State Department conduct an economic impact study on the economies in upstate New York and other border states and bring in an independent auditor to evaluate the entire program. The State Department has offered the PASS Card as a possible alternative to passports required under WHTI.

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