Idaho lawmaker pursues new ID for border crossings

| 1/14/2008

A northern Idaho state lawmaker is calling for legislation that is intended to ease border crossings from the state into Canada.

Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, wants to head off any problems that could result from U.S. Department of Homeland Security rules on border crossings. He is proposing the state follow in the footsteps of Washington state to issue “enhanced” driver’s licenses allowing residents, including truckers, to cross back and forth without a passport.

As of Jan. 1, Washington state residents can apply for the enhanced licenses that contain radio-frequency identification devices, or RFIDs. The devices allow border guards to check proof of citizenship and search federal databanks, including criminal records.

The cost to obtain Idaho’s version of the alternative licenses is expected to be much less than the $97 passports expected to be required for land and sea travel between U.S., Canada and Mexico in June 2009. Regular commercial and personal driver’s licenses also are being accepted at the border until June 2009, The Associated Press reported.

Supporters say the alternative licenses are needed to boost security while preserving the cross-border flow of trade and tourism. Others say the new type of license will allow “spontaneous” border crossings to continue.

Eskridge says the Idaho enhanced licenses would be issued on a voluntary basis only.

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– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor