An article in several Canadian publications today discusses the Canadian perspective on the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which gradually over the course of the next two years, assuming no delays, will require people entering the United States (including American citizens) to present a passport or another type of secure travel document for entry. There is concern on both sides of the border that the new requirements could reduce travel and trade and hurt border economies. For example, the Canadian Tourism Commission issued this report that models the potential economic impact of WHTI on Canada.
This is a tough issue. On the one hand, I can understand the desire to have a complete record of who is entering the country by all legal means – air, sea, and land. But having grown up very close to the US-Canada border in Washington state, it definitely rings true that a lot of people would stop going to Vancouver, BC if they had to get a $100 passport. Forcing tens of millions of people to purchase expensive travel documents isn’t the solution. As the story mentions, DHS and the State Department are working on developing cheaper travel documents for WHTI, and this is part of a solution, but ideally there are other means to close this gap – perhaps allowing state or provincial driver’s licenses that meet a minimum security standard to suffice.