The Seattle Times ran a story today about a hearing in Washington state on the potential impact of new Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative-related border crossing rules on trade and tourism:
Officials from Washington border communities say new travel identification requirements will place an unprecedented economic burden on Northwest cities, threatening international commerce and tourism.
Under a federal law to be phased in over the next two years, travelers entering the United States must provide a passport or a new government-issued ID card.
“For 200 years we’ve been able to move easily across the border,” said Ken Oplinger, a trade and tourism specialist for the Bellingham Chamber of Commerce, just 25 miles from the Canadian border. “Anything that would deter people from making those border crossings is going to create huge economic problems for our communities.”
This story matches with my prior contention that there would be pushback against the implementation of the WHTI rules- a hunch based primarily on my experience growing up close to the Canadian border in Washington state, not far from Bellingham. I can see the value of the WHTI rules from a border security perspective, but I think DHS needs to find ways to reduce the cost of the proposed PASS cards to $25-$30 and make the application process relatively easy – for example, not requiring people to submit their own passport photos. Otherwise the negative economic impact on cross-border trade and tourism could outweigh the potential security benefits.