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Letter to The Honorable Jerry Lewis And The Honorable David Obey

Location: Unknown

July 27, 2006

The Honorable Jerry Lewis The Honorable David Obey
Chairman Ranking Member
House Committee on Appropriations House Committee on Appropriations
H-218 1016 Longworth
Washington, DC 20515 Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Lewis and Ranking Member Obey,

As you begin Conference deliberations on H.R. 5441, the Fiscal Year 2007 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, we urge your support for the Leahy/Stevens provision included in the Senate-passed bill. The provision makes much-needed changes to implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) by providing DHS and State an extended deadline, as well as setting parameters for alternative documents.

As you are aware, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 requires the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and State to implement a plan, called WHTI, to require travelers re-entering the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean to present documents denoting both identity and citizenship by January 1, 2008. We believe the Intelligence Reform bill gives DHS and State discretion to develop low-cost and easily obtainable documents for U.S. travelers. Unfortunately, DHS and State have proposed that all travelers carry a $97 passport or a loosely defined $55 travel card, commonly referred to as the PASS card. These documents are prohibitively expensive and difficult to obtain for many American families, and do nothing to encourage travel into the U.S. Should DHS and State implement WHTI as-planned, cross-border commerce will dry-up and significantly damage border communities, international trade, and the travel industry.

In addition to the serious problems with the proposed documents, DHS and State are far behind in implementing WHTI by the January 1, 2008 deadline. The agencies have not determined the type of technology to include in the PASS card or requested funding in the FY 2007 budget to install new card-readers at land and sea ports-of-entry. Such inaction has led the Government Accountability Office to state that DHS and State will likely miss the 2008 implementation date.

It is clear that Congress must step-in and provide DHS and State the direction for getting WHTI done right before it is too late. The Senate's FY 2007 Homeland Security Appropriations bill contains language that would extend the WHTI deadline and give DHS and State clear instructions for implementing the PASS card system. Specifically, the Leahy/Stevens provision establishes a uniform implementation date of June 1, 2009 for sea and land travel; sets limits on the cost of the PASS card; requires DHS to share the PASS card technology with Canada and Mexico and install PASS card readers at all land ports of entry; and establishes alternative procedures for groups of children traveling across the border with parental consent.

The Leahy/Stevens provision is a necessary first-step toward ensuring that WHTI strengthens border security without unintentionally closing our borders to legitimate trade and travel. Accordingly, we strongly urge you to make certain that the Senate's WHTI language is retained in the final conference report for the FY 2007 Homeland Security appropriations bill. Thank you for your consideration of this request.


Louise Slaughter John McHugh
Bernard Sanders Lloyd Doggett
Henry Brown Sheila Jackson Lee
Robert Brady Charles Bass
Thaddeus McCotter Jeb Bradley
Michael McNulty Mark Kennedy
David Reichert Collin Peterson
Sherrod Brown Silvestre Reyes
John Dingell Earl Pomeroy
Sherwood Boehlert Raul Grijalva
Charles Rangel Bob Filner
John Sweeney Neil Abercrombie
Norm Dicks Tom Reynolds
Candice Miller Michael Doyle
Ron Paul Rick Larsen
Steven LaTourette John "Joe" Schwarz
Janice Schakowsky Solomon Ortiz
Charlie Gonzalez Bart Stupak
Sam Farr Corrine Brown
Susan Davis Michael Michaud
Adam Smith Carolyn Maloney
Donald Manzullo James Oberstar
Lincoln Diaz-Balart Barbara Lee
Tom Allen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Tom Feeney Jim McDermott
Ric Keller Brian Baird
Jim McGovern Luis Fortuno
William Jefferson Phil English
Fred Upton Jay Inslee
James Walsh Rush Holt
Diane Watson Rob Simmons

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