(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan amendment to immigration legislation that would delay implementation of Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) passport requirements by 17 months. U.S. Senator Patty Murray – who has repeatedly urged the Bush Administration to delay the passport requirements cosponsored the amendment.
“I want to make sure that the steps we take will actually improve security with minimal delays and burdens for citizens and commerce,” Senator Murray said. “We need to ensure that federal agencies are prepared to implement this program with minimal disruption to commerce, tourism and travel.”
WHTI requires people crossing the border into the United States to show a passport or other approved document starting December 31, 2006 for passengers entering the U.S. by air or sea, and by December 31, 2007 for land border crossings.
The amendment which passed the Senate today by voice vote would delay implementation of the PASS card requirements for 17 months, to June 1, 2009.
On March 24th, Murray and Representative Rick Larsen hosted a forum in Bellingham with representatives from the Departments of State and Homeland Security to give Northern Border communities the opportunity to express their concerns that the new rules could hurt state commerce without actually improving security.
“The most important job of our government is to ensure the safety and security of our citizens. But as we implement this plan, we need to remember that the economy of our border states depends on fluid cross-border travel,” Murray said. “That’s why our federal agencies, local businesses and communities need more time to get this right.”
For years, Murray has advocated for increased staffing at the Northern Border. Immediately after September 11th, as a member of the Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary Subcommittee, Murray helped craft a provision in the Appropriations bill to require at least 25 percent of all new Border Patrol agents and INS inspection staff to go to the Northern Border, and to boost Customs staffing levels by $25 million.