Requiring Passport or New Identification Card Would Add Little Value to Border Security
Washington, DC—Today, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff expressing his opposition to burdensome and costly proposals to require a passport or related new document for travel between the United States and Canada.
On January 16, 2006, Secretary Chertoff and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice jointly announced that persons crossing the US-Canadian border would be required to present a passport or a new PASS card beginning in January, 2008. “Requiring a passport or a new identification card would add little value to border security,” said Congressman Higgins. “It would, however, impose significant costs on the economy of Western New York by discouraging cross-border travel. As a region with a declining population, we depend on our six million neighbors in southern Ontario to sustain our economy. Any proposed passport requirement must be evaluated in light of its inevitably destructive economic impact.”
Higgins continued, “In my view, the argument to require a passport for travel between the United States and Canada is based on the fallacious assumption that the documents presented in a passport application are more reliable than alternative documents currently accepted at border crossings. However, the documents used to secure a passport – photo identification and a birth certificate – happen to be the very same documents that may be presented at border crossings under current regulations. In fact the current system may offer greater security because passport applications are submitted to well-meaning postal clerks, but documents presented at the border are scrutinized by trained Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents.”
“Another misleading argument advanced in favor of requiring passports for travel at the northern border is that passports contain unique measures to prevent counterfeiting. But for every new preventative measure that has been implemented, the inevitable advances in technology allow counterfeiting by those determined to do so. A passport, even with next generation technology, will only create a dangerous, false sense of security. I believe it is far better to hire more CBP officers and provide them with state of the art training and facilities. No electronic scan of a passport can replace the instinct of a trained agent interrogating a nervous traveler.”
According to Higgins, if DHS insists that requiring a passport for travel to Canada is a matter of national security it is only fair that the federal government bear the costs associated with its implementation. “The economic burden of this misguided policy should not be borne solely by the families who depend on frequent travel to Canada for economic, educational, cultural, and recreational purposes. If such a requirement is adopted, the Department of Homeland Security must make passports available to all residents of border communities free of cost,” said Higgins.