Leahy: Passport Requirement at Borders Will Be Nixed Until 2009 at the Earliest

Dec. 20, 2007

... Final Budget Bill Includes Leahy-Stevens Mandate Delaying WHTI Rules Until June 2009

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Legislation authored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to prevent the Bush Administration from requiring passports at the Northern Border and other U.S. checkpoints next year now has cleared Congress as part of a multi-agency budget bill. The President is expected to sign the bill, despite the Bush Administration's continuing opposition to the Leahy provisions.

Leahy two years ago was the first in Congress to blow the whistle on problems in the Administration's plans to implement the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) and has led efforts to fix them. A senior member of the Appropriations Committee, Leahy -- joined by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) -- this summer added his latest legislation to the Senate's version of the annual budget bill for the Department of Homeland Security. A day later the House also passed it in a strong bipartisan vote. The Leahy-Stevens amendment, which will become law when the President signs the budget bill, delays implementation of the land-crossing phase of WHTI until June 2009 and lays down seven conditions addressing the program's most serious problems.

"This buys breathing room to try to find better and more sensible answers for border security, especially on the Northern Border," said Leahy. "The passport requirement is the wrong answer to the wrong question. It creates major hassles for law-abiding citizens and communities all across the longest peaceful border in the world. It adds nothing to our security while costing Vermont and our national economy billions in lost commerce. Instead, for only a fraction of that expense, we could and should be beefing up our intelligence and working with Canada to seek out potential terrorists long before they even get near our borders."

He continued, "Muddled thinking, poor planning and administrative hubris have plagued this program from the beginning. They have rushed to implement passport checks before the necessary technology, infrastructure and training are in place at our border stations. That's a guarantee for long lines and lengthy delays. We saw what happened earlier this year when they started requiring passports for airline flights, touching off massive passport processing backlogs -- and that involved only about a tenth of the population that will be affected by the next phase, at our land borders."

Leahy noted that instead of accepting this delay and using it to get kinks out of the WHTI program, the Administration now wants to start requiring birth certificates at the border next month. "I'm challenging them on that, too." Leahy on Wednesday wrote to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, criticizing the birth certificate requirement and asking Chertoff to cite his authority for imposing it [the Leahy letter is posted on the Leahy website at http://www.leahy.senate.gov].

SOURCE Office of U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy

Copyright © 2007 PR Newswire Association LLC. All Rights Reserved.