6 April 2006

Ammendment to Border Crossing Requirments

Amendment lessens need for passports to cross border
Schumer's proposal would maintain some spontaneous travel
By DAN HEATH, Staff Writer

PLATTSBURGH -- An amendment introduced in the Senate would require the Department of Homeland Security to create a free day pass for U.S. citizens to cross the Canadian border and return within 24 hours without a passport.

The legislation, co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, would amend the Securing America's Borders Act. One section of that act calls for the use of biometric data, secure cross-border documents and other security enhancements.

"Nothing is more important than securing our borders. But, we must also protect cross-border commerce and tourism," Schumer said in a press release.

"This day pass would allow for spontaneous travel, so people in western and northern New York can continue to take advantage of services, shops and work on the other side of the border."

The passport requirement stems from the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, proposed by the U.S. departments of State and Homeland Security. Slated to take effect on Jan. 1, 2008, it would require passports or other department-approved documentation, such as NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST, for all travelers to and from the Americas, the Caribbean and Bermuda, including U.S. citizens.

One alternative document being discussed is being called the PASS card. As proposed, it would still cost almost $50 and take a similar amount of time to obtain -- four to six weeks -- as a passport, the press release stated.

The Senate amendment would allow children under the age of 18 to travel to Canada and return without a passport if accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Schumer said the amendment would allow school groups and families with large numbers of children to continue crossing the border for educational or recreational purposes without spending the money for passports.

In addition, the amendment mandates that any passport-alternative border-crossing documents cost no more than $20.

Applications for the day pass would be filled out at any U.S. Port of Entry along the U.S.-Canadian border. The applicant would be required to certify there was not enough time to apply for a passport before the trip.

The amendment was sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and co-sponsored by Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), all representing border states.

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