Victims' Rights Caucus

Press Releases

Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02) will be introducing his Passport For All Act this week before Congress. This Legislation would require a passport for all people who enter the United States from foreign countries, without exception. Congressman Poe will travel to the Texas/Mexico border this weekend to meet with Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officials to discuss the challenges they are faced with in identifying immigrants as they enter the United States. During this visit, Congressman Poe will tour the entire border region of Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico to get a first hand look at the immigration crisis.

The Passport for All Act will put an end to the burden placed on CBP to identify hundreds of accepted documents of identification from all around the world. Our border officials have to determine in a very short period of time whether the individual before them can be taken for their word or whether the countless number of different types of documents they could be presented with are genuine. We can not reasonably expect border agents to genuinely identify every state drivers license or every state issued birth certificate. Requiring a passport will increase safety and will reduce border wait times as officials will be trained to review and identify one document rather than the hundreds currently being accepted.

A passport has become the standard document that allows for the quick and safe inspection of visitors traveling between international borders throughout the world. However, the current Western Hemisphere passport exception does not require a passport for travel to and from the United States within North America. This policy is outdated and dangerous in a post 9/11 world.

This passport exception allows U.S. citizens to travel to contiguous territories and adjacent islands of the U.S. and return to the U.S. without presenting a passport. Similarly, foreign visitors who travel from these same contiguous territories and adjacent islands, on the basis of reciprocity, are also waived from the requirement to present a passport for entry into the United States.

While the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which passed last year, contained a section designed to eliminate this exception, it did so by requiring a regulatory plan rather than a statutory change. Recent attempts in Congress to block funding to implement or alter this plan have become common. This is why the Passport for All Act is so important because it finally puts into law the requirement that passports must be used and inspected for ALL foreign travel into the U.S.

The vulnerability of our borders is a major threat to our security as a nation. Before a May 13, 2003 Judiciary Subcommittee hearing, it was reported that convicted Washington, D.C. area sniper John Allen Muhammad found ''a fertile market,'' primarily among Jamaican nationals, in forged U.S. documents; producing and selling U.S. driver's licenses with photographs and corresponding birth certificates. Further, at a January 2003 hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) Office of Special Investigations described how easy it was for travelers to enter the United States using counterfeit documents and aliases. GAO agents created fictitious driver's licenses and birth certificates and presented those documents at ports of entry along the Canadian and Mexican borders and entering from Jamaica. The INS and Customs Service officials to whom those documents were presented never questioned the authenticity of those documents, and the agents presenting those documents encountered no difficulty using them. It is time we heed these warnings stated in the 9/11 Commission Report and do away with this dangerous Western Hemisphere passport exception that leaves our borders vulnerable.

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