The Department of Homeland Security is requiring people traveling into the U.S. to carry a passport beginning in 2007, even if they already are U.S. citizens.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, proposed by DHS and the State Department last April, will require citizens of the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, the Caribbean, and Central and South America to show a passport when entering the U.S.
It takes effect January 1, 2007, for people traveling by air and sea, and January 1, 2008, for people traveling by land.
And it has people on both sides of the border concerned about the economic effects.
Tourism industry leaders in [Washington] state and the Canadian province [British Columbia] warn that thousands of people will decide not to visit and millions of dollars of income will be lost if the Department of Homeland Security proceeds with enforcement starting Jan. 1, 2007.
This week, Gov. Christine Gregoire and Premier Gordon Campbell are expected to co-sign a letter to the federal agency expressing their shared concern about the potential economic hit on both sides of the border.
“We have to have security, there is no question about that,” Gregoire said. “On the other hand, can we have security to the point where we can really harm the economies?”
Jarrod Agen, a Homeland Security Department spokesman, said the intent is not to impede trade in the name of protecting citizens.
“Even the president himself has said he doesn’t want it to stifle flow at the border and affect the economy and trade,” Agen said.
All accounts so far indicate that the passport requirement would do just that.
A July report by the Canadian Tourism Commission predicts 7.7 million fewer Americans would visit Canada in the following three years as a result of the change. Of those, 1.3 million would be travelers to British Columbia. On the reverse side, the commission estimated a drop of 3.5 million trips from Canada to the U.S., with tens of thousands of them headed to Washington.
The report cited a decline this year as travelers without passports altered their plans, thinking the law already had taken effect.
Darrell Bryan, executive vice president and general manager of Victoria Clipper, said ferry ridership into Canadian ports is down compared with 2004, even as numbers have increased on routes within Washington.
Throughout the summer, passengers were surveyed on how they might respond if required to carry a passport. He said 17 percent replied they would not travel to Canada.
“Seventeen percent would put us out of business,” Bryan said. “We want to find ways to enhance security at the border, but we don’t believe security should trump trade. There has to be a balance.” — Everett Daily Herald
If you live here in the U.S., you are going to have to have a passport to travel to Canada. Will you get one, or will you forgo traveling to Canada?