Amid the clamor of the UK terror plot on Thursday and Friday, a couple of other homeland security-related stories got lost in the shuffle. One such story was the publication of regulations in the Federal Register for the implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). This DHS press release summarizes the new regulations.
The regulations clarify which types of documents will be allowed for entry into the United States via air or sea from other North American countries, as of January 1, 2007: passports, merchant mariner documents, and Nexus Air Program cards. The regulations do not address the document requirements for the second WHTI deadline, for land border crossings, on January 1, 2008, saying only that they will be addressed in a future rulemaking.
The regulations also clarify that pleasure vessels and ferry services will fall under the category of ‘land border crossings’, addressing fears in places like Washington state and Maine that international ferries between the U.S. and Canada would be affected by this earlier deadline.
The issuance of these regulations takes place amid an ongoing debate in Congress on the WHTI deadlines. There’s a serious possibility that these deadlines will shift as the result of Congressional action within the next two months. The Senate’s version of the FY 2007 DHS appropriations bill contains a provision to extend the WHTI deadlines by a year. That provision could be a key issue of contention in the House-Senate conference on the bill.