July 08, 2008

Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative Coming in June 2009

Does "REAL ID" ring a bell? How about "Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative?" It looks like almost no one picked up on it in the media...what a shock.

From our resident Jew,(he holds dual Israeli and American citizenship) Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's speech Monday:

"We have a unique opportunity, one that may not come again, to partner with a determined leader in Mexico, so that we can address a shared problem in a partnership way that we cannot afford to ignore. Now of course we are not only focused on efforts to control the border between the ports of entry, we are increasing our security and our efficiency at the ports of entry themselves. We continue to move forward with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which is slated to go into effect in June 2009 at our land and sea ports of entry.

As you will remember, this initiative reduces the types of identification that can be presented at the border so that we get to a requirement of reliable identification for people who want to enter the United States. And it also has eliminated the old system of allowing people to simply orally declare their citizenship and get waved on through.

We have already implemented the first part of our effort to shrink the kind of acceptable documentation at our airports, and compliance has been close to 100 percent. Likewise, as we’ve increased the rigor of our requirements at the land and sea borders, we have found very high compliance rates. And we are working hard to increase the type of reliable documents, and the number of reliable documents which Americans and Canadians can use once this Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative gets implemented in June of next year.

For example, the new pass-card being issued by the State Department has received more than 200,000 applications, and production is set to begin this month. I have applied for one myself. I hope you have to, or you will shortly Secretary Gutierrez. What these cards are going to do is not be more reliable, but they will be faster, because instead of having to read a driver’s license, these will be machine-readable only. You can simply zip through a machine-reader, which will make the process times faster.

The states have also stepped up and become part of the solution to the issue of secure documentation. The state of Washington is currently issuing its own version of an approved, enhanced driver’s license that will be acceptable at the border. New York has announced that it has completed its business plan to begin producing enhanced driver’s licenses. And other states are on the way to doing so as well."


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