Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Protecting the northern border

NY Public Broadcasting:
Deal to Delay Passport Requirement Fails

BUFFALO (2006-09-27) A deal reached in Congress Tuesday to delay the passport requirement along the northern border has fallen apart.

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter says lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed early Tuesday to delay the passport requirement along the U.S.-Canada border until June 2009.

But just before the vote, Slaughter says Wisconsin Republican James Sensenbrenner objected and convinced House Speaker Dennis Hastert to remove the extension.

Killing the delay at the last minute angered members of the Western New York Congressional delegation.

"This one really took us by surprise," Slaughter said.

Congress approved the passport requirement in 2004 as a way to prevent terrorism and crackdown on illegal immigration. It is scheduled to take effect in January 2008.

The passport requirement is causing widespread anxiety in Western New York, Southern Ontario and other northern border communities that depend on frequent travel to and from Canada for their local economy.
Folks probably won't be too happy about it in Detroit, northern Minnesota, or other northern outposts, either.

UPDATE:The Canadians are unhappy, not that Sensenbrenner would care. CanWest News Service reports:
WASHINGTON - Congressman James Sensenbrenner is a ruddy-faced politician known around Capitol Hill as one of Washington's most mercurial and uncompromising lawmakers.

A 28-year veteran of the House of Representatives, the border security-obsessed congressman from Wisconsin is perhaps best known for authoring immigration legislation which last year triggered massive street protests among Latinos from Los Angeles to New York.

As of Thursday night, Sensenbrenner was also the lone Republican leader blocking legislation to delay new U.S. rules for Canadian travellers that have incensed Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
UPDATE: The bill passed, but Sensenbrenner won a concession. CanWest reports:
WASHINGTON - Legislation to delay new border identification rules for Canadians traveling to the United States has survived a backroom power struggle among congressional Republicans, clearing the way for its final approval in Congress.

The House of Representatives passed the legislation 412 to six in a vote Friday evening, and the Senate was expected to approve the bill later Friday or early today.

The agreement, reached after four days of high-stakes politicking on Capitol Hill, will give Canadians up until the middle of 2009 before they must obtain a passport or tamper-proof equivalent document to cross land borders into the U.S.

But in order to appease the most vocal opponent of the border ID delay House judiciary committee chairman James Sensenbrenner Republican leaders publicly urged the Bush administration to implement the controversial program well before the new deadline.

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