Travel initiative in limbo on Hill

The deadline for implementing the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative appears to be reinstated following last-minute activity from Congress this week.

The program, which will require Americans, Canadians and Mexicans to show a passport or "pass card" upon entry into the United States, was set to go into effect in January 2008. However, as of Sept. 26, a provision extending the deadline to June 2009 had been included in a House-Senate conference report as part of the fiscal 2007 homeland security spending bill.

The provision was supported primarily by members of Congress from border states who feared the initiative would have a negative impact on legitimate trade and travel.

However, as of today, GOP House Speaker Denis Hastert, R-Ill, reportedly has removed the provision from that report.

"As of two days ago, the provision was in," Angelo Amador, director of immigration policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said today. "As of right now, my understanding is that it is out."

The plan is intended to boost homeland security by requiring either all border crossers to hold either passports or pass cards, a tamper-resistant, biometric ID card that is under development. Now, most of those people can use many forms of identification at the borders.

Critics said the technology is not yet ready, and implementation will slow legitimate travel and commerce at the borders.

Because they depend on timely delivery of manufactured items to and from Mexico and Canada, many chamber members oppose the original deadline, Amador said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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