Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, is arguing against a delay in the implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative after a U.S. Government Accountability Office investigation showed that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Officers continue to have trouble identifying forms of counterfeit identification at land border crossings.
In testimony before the Senate Finance Committee on August 2, Gregory D. Kutz, managing director forensic audits and special investigations for the GAO, said that GAO officers over the course of several months this past spring entered the United States at nine different points of entry using fake driver’s licenses and other bogus IDs.
“CBP officers never questioned the authenticity of the counterfeit documents presented at any of the nine crossings,” Kutz testified. “On three occasions—in California, Texas, and Arizona—agents crossed the border on foot. At two of these locations—Texas and Arizona—CBP allowed the agents entry into the United States without asking for or inspecting any identification documents.”
A provision delaying the implementation of the WHTI until June 1, 2009 is in the Senate Homeland Security Department appropriations bill, but Grassley is urging the House-Senate Conference Committee to drop that provision.
“The [Senate Finance] Committee heard some very strong evidence as to why the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative is important and why we should make sure this law is implemented by the [January 1, 2008] deadline that Congress established,” Grassley said in a letter addressed to the conference committee.
Grassley chaired a hearing on the same issue three years ago after GAO agents were able to cross the border with counterfeit documents. “Three years after our first hearing it appears our borders are no more secure,” Grassley wrote, concluding that extending or lifting the WHTI deadline would be premature. “It’s also foolish. We should allow the [CBP] to try to meet the deadline and implement a system that will close our borders to potential terrorists as quickly as possible.”