The Department of Homeland Security has issued a final rule ordering that the land and sea requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative go into effect June 1, 2009.
On and after that date, U.S. citizens entering the U.S. by sea or land from within the Western Hemisphere will have to present acceptable documentation, such as a passport or a U.S. passport card, to get back into the country.
In a release, DHS announced it was issuing the rule a year before its implementation to “give the public ample notice and time to obtain the WHTI-compliant documents they will need to enter or re-enter the United States on or after June 1, 2009.”
The department also announced that over the next 14 months, it will hold public information campaigns to inform U.S. and Canadian citizens about the new document requirements, including special outreach campaigns to border communities that will be most affected.
The WHTI regulations called for DHS to implement the final rule on or before June 1, 2009, but left the final date up to the secretary of DHS. In a statement responding to the DHS announcement, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said that while he was gratified DHS has delayed the implementation of the land and sea requirements until the last possible date, he believes DHS is still unprepared.
“The Homeland Security Department’s record does not instill confidence in how they will handle the remaining steps in implementing WHTI,” said Leahy. “There is no indication that they will be ready with the appropriate technology infrastructure at our borders to handle new documents. There is no reason to believe border upgrades will be ready. There is no signal they will reconsider using problematic RFID technology that poses security and privacy concerns. There is no assurance that they will have enough time to hire and train the border agents who will be needed to implement the passport requirement. And there is no reason to believe that adequate consultations with Canada are under way, even now.”