In response, senators from northern U.S. states have implored DHS to maintain oral border declarations until June 2009.
A bipartisan group of 19 senators predominantly from states bordering Canada are imploring Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to delay a new rule set to go into effect on Thursday. The rule will require adults to show a government-issued identification card plus proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, when crossing the U.S.' northern border.
The Associated Press reports :
In a letter to Secretary Michael Chertoff, 19 senators said commerce will be stifled and lives disrupted if federal officials go ahead Thursday with plans to end the practice of allowing people to enter after showing a document -- such as a driver's license -- and declaring their nationality .... Implementing the new rules now would violate the spirit of a law passed last month that delays until June 2009 a requirement that people carry passports or similar documents when entering the United States by land or sea, they said.
The Department of Homeland Security derides oral declarations as the "honor system."
"We remain steadfast in our commitment to rejecting the honor system when deciding who to let into the United States. That's why we are moving forward with new procedures starting this Thursday, January 31," DHS Spokeswoman Laura Keehner said. "This department cannot ignore the lessons that we learned from Sept. 11, 2001, nor can we faithfully strengthen border security yet leave this vulnerability in status quo."
The senators argue that the new identification requirments won't protect Americans from terrorism but will hurt northern states' economies as the overall American economy teeters on the brink of recession. "These paper padlocks won't make us safer," said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
Maine's Merchant Association agreed with the senators, saying in a statement: "These new measures will dramatically slow down the flow of commerce across the border at a time when we need it the most. With over $1 million of surface transportation trade occurring between the U.S. and Canada every minute, let's use the time that Congress has provided to find the right solution."