WASHINGTON, DC — The Department of Homeland Security is seeking public comment on implementation of the “Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative,” that would require individuals who enter the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, and other Western Hemisphere countries to carry a passport. At Senator Collins’ insistence, the law requires DHS to also consider acceptable alternatives to passports, and to develop a plan that takes into consideration the needs of frequent travelers residing in border communities.
Senator Collins has long argued that new travel rules should take into account the unique needs of states like Maine, where frequent travel across the border is crucial. She believes technology exists to allow this to be done without compromising security.
The Collins-Lieberman intelligence reform law included the requirement that alternative forms of identification be considered as part of the new passport rules. It also requires that the Department seek to expedite the travel of frequent travelers, including those who live in border communities, and make registered traveler programs readily available to all travelers. The Department has committed itself to continuing to improve and expand travel facilitation programs consistent with the requirements of the law.
“I am pleased that Secretary Chertoff has recognized the unique circumstances surrounding frequent travel to and from states like Maine, where the ability to quickly and easily cross the border is directly tied to the quality of life and livelihood of so many individuals and families. The public comment period provides the opportunity for anyone interested in this issue to present written views to the Department. I plan to press the Department to ensure that frequent travelers are not unduly burdened by this new regulation,” said Senator Collins.
The originally proposed date for implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative was December 31, 2005. The proposal issued by DHS yesterday would roll out the initiative in two phases, delaying implementation of the first phase to December 21, 2006 and the second phase on December 31, 2007.