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Slaughter: Bush Administration Not Ready for New Border Requirements

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – Many people -- average citizen and congressional representative alike -- are growing more and more outraged by new border requirements and a backlog in the processing of passports.

Congress and the Bush Administration appear to be on collision course. The administration's Homeland Security Department is insisting on a January 2008 start of a new requirement that would require a passport or some other yet undefined pass to cross the US-Canadian border. But on Friday, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution that prohibits its implementation before June 2009. Even staunch Bush supporter, Republican Tom Reynolds of Clarence, voted for the delay.

Still, it may be the long lines at passport offices in the US that will do more than anything else to convince Homeland Security to put off the new border requirement. There's been an unprecedented demand for passports now that they're required for people flying to and from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter says calls to her office from constituents looking to have their passport applications expedited are up slightly.

Slaughter has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the new border requirements. She notes the bill approved Friday withholds $100 million from the Homeland Security budget until the administration has studied alternatives to passports such as a secure driver's license. Slaughter said procedures for crossing the US-Canadian border have worked well for more than 200 years, and she simply doesn't see a reason for changing things.

Still, some members of the Bush administration do. They say the goal of the passport requirement is to make sure terrorists don't use the border to enter the US. And according to a Homeland Security spokesman, front-line officers at the border currently must review thousands of different documents when determining whether to allow someone in.

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