Congress has extended a controversial Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative deadline by 17 months, making June 1, 2009, the new deadline by which people traveling via land or sea from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Panama, Mexico, and Canada must have a passport or other accepted document to enter or re-enter the United States. However, a January 8, 2007, deadline requiring passports for people traveling by air still stands.
Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, proposed an amendment pushing for the extension because of fears that cross-border trade and tourism between the United States and Canada would suffer with the earlier target date. Travel and tourism organizations such as the Travel Industry Association of America also feared that the technology behind the implementation of the PASS Card system would not be in place by the deadline.
The amendment contains language requiring that the PASS Card technology meet necessary security standards, that the technology be shared with the governments of Canada and Mexico, that an alternative system be devised for groups of children crossing borders, and that the necessary technological infrastructure be implemented at the ports of entry in order to correctly process identity cards and to train U.S. personnel on new technologies.
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