AUGUST 18, 2006
Will President George W. Bush compromise national security by caving into pressure from the nation’s largest travel industry association, which is urging him to further delay a crucial law created to strengthen border security after the 2001 terrorist attacks?
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which requires all travelers within the Americas, the Caribbean and Bermuda to have a passport, has already missed two implementation deadlines and now the powerful Travel Industry Association of America is asking the president to delay it further because it might affect member profits.
The trade group represents all components of the $645 billion travel industry and, evidently, profits are more important than national security. Officials with the organization have contacted the White House to urge Bush to delay implementing the new law until December of 2009. The president has the power to do it without consulting Congress.
It’s bad enough that the initiative-created by the Department of Homeland Security at the urging of Congress–missed its first two deadlines, in 2005 and later in 2006. Federal officials have set a third, and supposedly final deadline, for January 2007, which means that Americans and foreigners traveling to and from Canada, Mexico, Panama and the Caribbean must have passports to enter the United States.
This will tremendously strengthen security since Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents currently must accept hundreds of varied driver’s licenses and birth certificates whose authenticity are difficult to prove. In many cases, officials have allowed undercover agents posing as travelers with fraudulent documents to enter the country.
This is precisely why Congress mandated the change that would streamline the number of documents to enter the U.S. Now the travel industry claims that the change would create chaos among Americans and deter foreigners from visiting. Who will win this battle? The multi-billion dollar travel industry or Homeland Security officials, who insist that this initiative is a screening system that will significantly enhance U.S. defenses against terrorism?
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