Mr. Chairman, the amendment I offer today will help reduce the lengthy delays consumers are facing when applying for passports, while at the same time strengthening security at our borders.
The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 mandated that the U.S. Secretaries of Homeland Security and State develop and implement a plan to require all U.S. citizens and foreign nationals to present a passport or some other document when entering the United States, as of January 1, 2008.
For many years United States citizens and citizens from other countries in the Western Hemisphere have not been required to present a passport to enter the United States. They were admitted by stating verbally that they were from a country that didn't require passports or by presenting a wide variety of less secure documentation, including up to 5,000 documents that our border agents must be versed in.
The 9/11 Commission in their findings highlighted ``for terrorists travel documents are as important as weapons. ..... In their travels terrorists use evasive methods, such as altered and counterfeit documents, and they study and exploit America's vulnerabilities.'' The 9/11 Commission rightfully recommended we end the practice of traveling without passports. I am glad Congress took action on that recommendation. However, here we are 2 1/2 years later, and it seems we are still going further and further away from putting this policy in place due to the bureaucracy in the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department through the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.
It seems bureaucrats implementing the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative continue to spend large amounts of time and money to come up with other ``alternative documents to passports'' to comply with this law. The answer is why? We have a secure document, the passport, that has been implemented and is being used. But the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, even though they continue to say the passport is the ``gold standard'' for identity and citizenship documents because of its security, have come up with all different types of forms and documents that they are studying. All of these documents are unproven. They are called the Pass card, the BCC card, the SENTRI card, the Nexus card, the Fast card. And we are spending taxpayer money experimenting on these, while not implementing the proven document like the passport.
So this bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to use and implement only passports and quit spending money on documents that are unproven. And that is the purpose of this amendment: to spend money on passports only.
Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
CLICK TO WATCH