Skepticism surrounds upcoming border ID requirements

WASHINGTON — If there’s one thing that’s certain about the new upcoming cross-border identification requirements it’s uncertainty.

It was recently reported Rep. Louise Slaughter (D) of New York, who is also chairwoman of the House Rules Committee, was set to introduce legislation delaying the implementation of the June 1, 2009 land border identification requirements.

Slaughter wanted the implementation date pushed back by one year, citing among her reasons, potential chaos at the B.C. border during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, all travelers crossing into the U.S. by land will need approved documentation that proves the person’s citizenship. The requirements went into effect for air travelers in January 2007 and were initially supposed to begin for land and sea travel in early 2008.

Slaughter was part of the push to get the rules delayed for land travelers until June 2009. But now she’s unsure if even that’s too soon.

Another report from Embassy magazine, however said there won’t be any delays this time.

Federal Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said the current timeline for implementation was assured after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the U.S. is ready.

How ready the country’s are is still an ongoing debate. Currently, only 28 percent of Americans hold passports and a little more than 50 percent of Canadians fall into that category.

Some provinces have started programs to issue an enhanced drivers license in lieu of a passport as citizenship proof, but some privacy watchdog groups have raised concerns with the EDL cards and what the information will be used for.

Saskatchewan recently abandoned their EDL program and along with a potential lack of interest, privacy concerns were also a reason.

— with files from Embassy and the Vancouver Sun

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