Both houses of Congress are likely to pass an amendment to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) that would delay implementation of passport requirements to and from Canada until June, 2009. Although a number of “technical” reasons have been given to support the delay, the main argument appears to be backlash from the mortifyingly long delays that have occurred with the implementation of passport requirements for air travel to Canada and the Caribbean in January, 2007. An unspoken argument is that this delay will push implementation of the plan beyond the Bush Administration’s tenure. I applaud Congress’ effort to delay implementation of stricter border crossing regulations, and hope that the next Administration is more open-minded about the alternatives.
The Bush Administration issued a series of talking points condemning the amendment and the alternatives to the passport requirement, and has threatened to veto it.
Clearly, the WHTI requirements dramatically impact the citizens of border communities more than those further away. Nowhere has the Administration or Congress offered to fund either the cost of the requisite passports, nor any of the proposed alternatives. The Buffalo Niagara Partnership, in its weekly newsletter, stated that “Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul has estimated that it will cost $1.5 million to implement such a program and $1 million per year to maintain it just in Erie County”.
Another unfunded mandate, foisted on the citizenry. And this one is pointed directly at us.