Coleman, Peterson work to ease travel to Canada
Work continues to provide border security without hampering travel between the United States and Canada. U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., was successful last week in securing an amendment to legislation implementing 9/11 Commission recommendation...
Work continues to provide border security without hampering travel between the United States and Canada.
U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., was successful last week in securing an amendment to legislation implementing 9/11 Commission recommendations that would require a pilot project to determine if enhanced driver's licenses are suitable documentation for travel between the two nations.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, as it is, would require passports for entry into the United States from Canada, even for U.S. citizens who work across the border or who travel regularly. It is slated to take effect next Jan. 1. It is already required of air travel passengers.
Coleman's amendment also requires the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to submit a report to Congress evaluating the pilot project and mapping out the next steps, including an expansion to additional states and Canadian provinces.
"I had some disagreements with the secretary of Homeland Security that I'm working on," Coleman told Minnesota reporters in a telephone news call prior to the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee meeting.
"We want to make sure that we put in place a system that doesn't economically damage the vitality of communities on our northern border and that at the same time provides safety and security," the Minnesota Republican said.
Coleman's amendment would require DHS to sign a memorandum of understanding to conduct the pilot program with one or more states as part of the requirements set forth by an amendment last year.
"The reality is that driver's licenses are becoming more secure and should be explored as a potential form of documentation for travel to and from Canada," Coleman said in a later statement. "For the last year, I have been pushing for a pilot program that would move this concept forward. Not only does my amendment ensure that a pilot takes place, but it also requires an analysis of the next steps involved in expanding this possible solution to additional states.
"This amendment will not delay the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, but will require DHS to study a possible solution that makes sense to many Americans, particularly those in border communities," he added.
U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, DFL-7th-District, is also trying to mitigate the effects in co-sponsoring a bill to ease new travel restrictions to Canada.
The new federal law could hurt some businesses and communities near Canada, he said.
"In my district, commerce doesn't stop at the border," Peterson said. "For the sake of businesses and their employees who rely on ease of access, this legislation is critical."
The Peterson bill would exempt children 16 and younger from carrying documents the new rules require and take other steps to make crossing the border easier.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative will require all travelers, including U.S. citizens, to and from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, to have a passport or other accepted document that establishes the bearer's identity and nationality to enter or re-enter the United States.
The proposed changes were originally scheduled to go into effect by Dec. 31, 2007. An amendment to extend the deadline to June 1, 2009, was passed as part of the Department of Homeland Security appropriations conference report last year, but the administration has signaled an intent to implement as early as January 2008, Coleman said.
The Pioneer's State Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.