By 2008, truckers traveling over the Mexican or
Canadian border may have to carry their passport to get back into the United
However, the requirement may not apply to those truckers
who carry FAST credentials under the federal government’s Free
and Secure Trade Program.
The new requirement is part of the Department of Homeland
Security’s Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative; it was created by
Congress in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, also
known as the 9/11 Intelligence Bill, which was signed into law Dec. 17, 2004.
In a news release, department officials said the agency
would soon issue an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the plan,
including a request for the public to submit ideas for what other documents
could be used in place of a passport.
However, the department has already said it wants those
documents to include FAST cards. The program is designed to help speed up
freight movement across the border by prescreening drivers, avoiding long
checks that cause other drivers to wait in line.
Elaine Dezenski, acting assistant secretary for border and
transportation security policy for the Department of Homeland Security, told
reporters that some aspects of the FAST card made it a good passport substitute
for truckers: “background checks, documentation requirements and biometric requirements.” A final decision on including use of the FAST card will be made with the final
Implementation of the new passport requirement will start
for air and sea travel by the end of 2005, but truckers will not be affected
until Jan. 1, 2008. The rule will also require that foreign citizens crossing
into the United States from other countries use a passport – even if entering
from that country did not previously require one.
Federal officials say a key part of the program was finding
a way to balance security with the need to move people and goods across the
border quickly and efficiently.
“We recognize the implications
this might have for industry, business and the general public, as well as our
neighboring countries, and they are important partners in this initiative,”
Maura Harty, assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, said at a press
conference announcing the new program. “The advanced notice of proposed rule
making will allow these affected publics to voice concern and provide ideas for
alternate documents acceptable under the law.
“The overarching need is to
implement this legal requirement in a way that strengthens security while
facilitating the movement of persons and goods.”