House slows land/sea passport rule

The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Friday to prohibit implementation anytime before June 2009 of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) rule requiring passports for entering the U.S. at land and sea ports of entry.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Friday to prohibit implementation anytime before June 2009 of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) rule requiring passports for entering the U.S. at land and sea ports of entry. The measure was killed when the House voted 268 to 150 to approve the Fiscal Year 2008 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill.

According to a news release issued by Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), Chairwoman of the House Rules Committee, in addition to delaying the rule the bill included language authored by Slaughter to withhold $100 million from the funds required by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement WHTI until DHS has determined if driver's licenses can be enhanced to meet the WHTI requirements.

The Slaughter language also requires DHS to fully test its proposed “passport card” before making it publicly available and develop a plan for land implementation that will be shared with the public, the release stated. Slaughter's provision also requires that DHS submit a report to Congress on the success of the driver's license pilot program and “reveal its overall WHTI roadmap” before being allowed to put the proposed WHTI documentary requirements into place.

"After over two and a half years of fighting against WHTI, I am pleased to see that Congress overwhelmingly rebuked the Administration today by delaying the implementation of the flawed program until mid-2009," said Slaughter.

"We sent a clear signal that we don't trust the Administration to get WHTI done right,” she continued. “Travel and trade which cross the northern border every day between America and Canada are critical to our economy and to northern economic security, and we must never sacrifice our relationship with Canada in a misguided attempt to increase border security.”

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