I have been following some of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering in Washington regarding the implementation of the new identification requirements this week for crossing the border. Nineteen U.S. Senators (8 Democrats, 10 Republicans and 1 independent) have sent this letter to DHS Secretary Chertoff urging him to hold off on implementing the January 31st photo I.D./birth certificate requirement - effectively calling it a pointless intermediate measure in the stepped-up identification requirements that will eventually be implemented in June 2009.
In December, Congress delayed the land border crossing portion of WHTI until June 2009 in order to give DHS/CBP the time and resources to be adequately prepared for an effective and smooth implementation of the stepped-up passport/passport card requirements (which most agree are necessary). DHS decided to implement this intermediate birth certificate step anyway, even though it really accomplishes nothing towards increased border security.
The Senators in their letter rightly point out that U.S. birth certificates are issued by many different entities and therefore come in thousands of different forms and will be impossible to verify as legitimate - thus causing a major administrative issue for CBP officers trying to figure out whether a birth certificate is real or forged. For instance, my birth certificate was issued from Bureau County, Illinois written on an old scrap of paper by typewriter and signed by someone named Tom Velon (try verifying that!). If the real concern is making sure crossers are U.S. citizens, providing an easily-forged birth certificate surely isn't going to accomplish this.
As the Senators also point out, the birth certificate requirement will only compound the slow border crossings already being experienced at most U.S. border crossings - thus impeding commerce and restricting legal crossings by U.S. citizens (again, while accomplishing nothing towards border security). The Lukeville border crossing is slated for expansion but is not currently well-equipped to handle the additional tourists now coming to Puerto Peñasco (even before this new requirement takes place).
From what I have been told, these congressional efforts to convince Secretary Chertoff to eliminate the birth certificate requirements are unlikely to be successful. So I want to again encourage everyone coming to Puerto Peñasco (Rocky Point) to go ahead and apply for their passports or the new passport cards now - even though they aren't officially required until June 2009. It is a pretty simply process, will save you a lot of headache over the next year when crossing the border and will speed up the crossing for everyone.
While you are waiting for your passport or passport card, make sure to have your government issued photo I.D. (driver's license) and proof of citizenship (birth certificate) available starting this Friday, February 1 and thereafter. Not having the proper identification will impair your ability to cross and will slow down crossings for everyone else. I have written about ways to obtain your passport or birth certificate here. I will keep readers updated on any progress on delaying or eliminating the birth certificate requirement (but don't hold your breath).