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(Washington, D.C.) - The Senate Appropriations Committee today approved an amendment co-sponsored by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) which delays implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) for 17 months and requires the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State to ensure that certain security standards are met before the program begins.

WHTI will require 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. However, the program has come under criticism because of deficiencies in the Passport Card (or "PASS Card") system, and new procedures that may have harmful effects on cross border trade and tourism.

"I am pleased that the appropriations committee has realized the dangers in going forward immediately with this hastily planned and potentially harmful program," said Senator Murray "If we carefully plan this system, taking special concern to implement technology that will actually secure our borders, then we will avoid the more difficult task of going back and fixing a flawed program."

Senator Murray has also expressed concern that the new rules could hurt Washington state commerce without actually improving security.

"A critical component of Washington state's economy is fluid travel across the northern border," Murray said. "The delay of this program will benefit our state and our safety by ensuring that the passport system is uniform, and that the technology in the PASS Card is understood by officials on both sides of the border. Therefore, the commercial cross–border traffic, essential to our state's bottom line, will not be brought to a screeching halt."

In addition to delaying overall implementation of the WHTI program, today's amendment also institutes a set of requirements for the PASS Card system which the Department of Homeland Security and State Department must certify as met before the program begins.

The PASS Card requirements include:

  • Ensuring that the technology for any Passport Card meets security standards that the DHS and Department of State agree upon.

  • Sharing the PASS Card technology with the governments of Canada and Mexico.

  • Justifying the fee set for the Passport Card.

  • Developing an alternative procedure for groups of children traveling across the border under adult supervision.

  • Installing all necessary technological infrastructure at the ports of entry to process the cards and train U.S. agents at the border crossings in all aspects of the new technology.

  • Making the Passport Card available for international land and sea travel between the United States and Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean and Bermuda.

  • Establishing a unified implementation date for all sea and land borders.