Constituent Services
Higgins Says Delay in Passport Requirement Signals Administration Conceding to Error in Policy
June 20, 2007

Congressman Urges Complete Reevaluation of Border Screening Practices Which Protect Security as well as WNY and Ontario Economies


            Today, Wednesday, June 20, 2007, the United States Department of Homeland Security and Department of State announced changes to their Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) policy which would push back the passport requirement for land travel between the United States and Canada originally slated to begin in January to the summer of 2008.  Among the changes, in lieu of passports, residents crossing the border after the first of the year would no longer be asked to orally declare residency and instead be required to provide a drivers license and proof of residency, such as a birth certificate.   


            “Today's announcement delays the passport requirement until next summer, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough,” said Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27).  “An enhanced driver's license is a solution that balances the need for better security at our borders with the demand for seamless travel and trade that fuels the economies in Western New York and Southern Ontario.”      


            In their “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking”, issued today, the Bush administration projects economic losses nationwide of only $200 million annually as a result of Canadians no longer visiting the U.S (page 70).  In truth, the negative economic impact of this proposal to Western New York alone will far exceed the government’s estimates of negative economic impact on all border communities nationally. 


            Just last week the University at Buffalo Regional Institute released a report which found that last year alone, $75 billion in commodities crossed the WNY/Ontario border, making the local border the second busiest US/Canadian crossing by volume.  The following data compiled by the Regional Institute at the University at Buffalo in their policy brief entitled “Defining the Region’s Edge” suggests the extent to which a reduction in Canadian visits to the US would cripple the already-struggling local economy:


  • 40% of the students who attend D’Youville College are Canadians.
  • Hospital visits by Canadians have a local economic impact of $42 million.
  • Approximately 15,000 visitors to a typical Buffalo Bills home game are Canadians.
  • 12% of Buffalo Sabres season ticket holders are Canadians.
  • 35% of the skiers at Holiday Valley Resort are Canadians.
  • Approximately 1/3 of patrons at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport are Canadians.




            “Once again this Administration is misleading the American public and taking drastic action without appropriate long term planning,” said Higgins.  “With today’s announcement this Administration acknowledges that the passport requirement for travel between the US and Canada was ill-conceived, poorly planned and beyond manageable.   During this delay, I urge the Administration to reevaluate their economic impact numbers to reflect the true economic devastation that would occur in Western New York and cities across the northern border if the passport requirement were to go into effect.”  


            Due to the uncertainty associated with WHTI there has been significant increase in demand and delays for passports.  Since the beginning of this year, Congressman Higgins’ offices have assisted over 500 constituents frustrated with exorbitant delays in the passport processing system and seeking help to avert the need to cancel travel plans altogether.  In all of 2006 Higgins’ staff received only 20 requests for passport assistance.


            Last week Congressman Higgins joined his colleagues in House of Representatives to approve a provision, authored by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-28), in the 2008 Homeland Security Act which will delay implementation of the passport requirement until a pilot program has been completed to determine if an enhanced driver’s license may offer the same security as a passport with a far lesser impact to border communities. A second provision approved by the House last week will delay implementation of the passport requirement until June 2009.  Final implementation of this legislation is subject to approval by the Senate and confirmation by the President. 







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