Congress Moves to Delay Northern Border Passport Requirement until June, 2009</A

Jun 15, 2007

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (WA-02) voted today to pass the Homeland Security Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2008 (H.R. 2638) which includes a provision to delay the next round of Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) passport requirements until June 2009, seventeen months later than the Department of Homeland Security had planned. The bill, which passed the House by a vote of 268 to 150, also withholds $100 million from WHTI implementation pending a report on the results of state pilot programs and additional milestones for progress.  Similar legislation passed the Senate on Thursday, and the next step is a House-Senate conference committee to agree on a final bill.

“The recent passport debacle is proof positive that the Departments of Homeland Security and State don’t have their acts together when it comes to implementing WHTI,” Larsen continued. “This bill sends a strong message that they need to get this done right.”

Since January 2007, U.S. citizens traveling by air to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda have been required to present passports due to the first round of WHTI requirements. As a result, the Seattle Passport Agency alone reports that they have received over 400,000 requests for passports since the beginning of the year. Last week, in light of record-breaking demand, the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security announced that travelers flying to these destinations who have applied for but not yet received a passport will be able to enter and leave the United States without one through September 30, 2007. 

“Hundreds of constituents have contacted my office after struggling to get a passport in time for summer travel, and we’ve done our best to help them,” said Larsen. “Northern border communities can’t afford these kinds of problems as we move forward with WHTI implementation. The Bush administration needs to make sure that they have a plan in place that strengthens our security and protects the cross-border commerce that is vital to our economy.”

A member of the Northern Border Caucus, Larsen has met with the Departments of Homeland Security and State to voice his concerns over the potential economic loss a poorly implemented program could cause.