The House and Senate have agreed to postpone the deadlines for the implementation of the requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, in language included in the FY 2007 DHS appropriations bill. AP notes:
plan to tighten U.S. borders by requiring passports or tamper-resistant identification cards from everyone entering the country has been delayed.
House and Senate lawmakers agreed to push back the program by 17 months, saying they want to make sure new ID cards being developed by the Bush administration will better secure borders against terrorists without slowing legitimate travelers from Canada and Mexico. The new ID’s will be required for Americans and all others entering the U.S.
That pushes the WHTI land border deadline back to the middle of 2009, which should give DHS and the State Department sufficient time to develop a workable solution for meeting the WHTI mandates. However, simply kicking the ball down the road doesn’t magically resolve the lingering disputes between DHS and State over technology, nor does it ensure that the business model for implementing WHTI without disrupting or deterring cross-border travel is sound. And this delay has its downsides: it leaves open critical gaps in the nation’s border security that were identified by the 9/11 Commission’s monograph on terrorist travel and which the WHTI elements of the Intelligence Reform Act were intended to address.