JUNE 30, 2006
A crucial Homeland Security initiative created to strengthen northern and southern border security after the 2001 terrorist attacks has missed its implementation deadline twice and continues to get blocked by powerful senators from both parties.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which will require all travelers within the Americas, the Caribbean and Bermuda to have a passport already missed its December 2005 deadline and will miss its second deadline this year. Officials are saying it will be more like 2009 before it goes into effect.
Apparently there has been a lack of coordination between the federal agencies–the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department-in charge and lawmakers say the system would be a “train wreck on the horizon” if it goes into effect as scheduled.
Americans must wonder, then, how seriously the U.S. Government is taking homeland security. After all, the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act mandated that the secretaries of Homeland Security and State Department develop a plan to require U.S. citizens and foreign nationals to present a passport to secure identity when entering the county. For years many U.S. citizens and some citizens of other western hemisphere countries, including Canadians, have not been required to present a passport to enter the U.S.
Homeland Security officials billed the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative as a screening system that will significantly enhance U.S. defenses against terrorism. If that is in fact the case, the repeated delays are of great concern.
Could it be that the U.S. is caving in to its neighbor in the north, who has opposed the measure from the start, or the multi-billion dollar travel industry? Canadian leaders have called the plan a potential disaster that won’t make the U.S.-Canada border any safer or stop any terrorist attacks.
The powerful Travel Industry Association of America, which represents the $645 billion travel industry, has applauded the initiative’s continued delays because it poses a serious threat to cross-border travel between the U.S. and its neighbors within the western hemisphere, particularly Canadian travel.
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