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Chertoff Says Government Will Offer Alternative to Passports to Cross Northern Border

By Mark Scott

Washington, DC – Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff says the government will offer a cheap, convenient alternative to a much-criticized plan to require US citizens to show passports at northern border crossings.

The government plans to require travelers crossing land borders to show a passport or one of four other secure documents by 2008.

That plan has generated widespread opposition, especially in Buffalo, where people regularly cross the border for everything from a business lunch to a hockey game. Critics say a passport, which costs $97 and usually takes weeks to get, is simply too expensive.

Chertoff says the agency is "working hard to make sure we do it right." But officials have yet to say just how they'll do that. A driver's license or a birth certificate are used by most who cross the Canadian border now.

Many New York officials, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Gov. George Pataki, have urged federal officials to abandon the passport requirement plan and use something easier to obtain.

Senator Charles Schumer will meet Thursday with a Chertoff deputy, and they will meet again in Buffalo next week.