- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 21, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Bush administration will delay for at least six months a rule that Americans present passports when crossing the U.S. border by land or sea, officials said yesterday.

The announcement marks the second time in a month that officials have scaled back security plans in response to complaints.

Beginning Jan. 31, land and sea travelers returning from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda will have to present a birth certificate and driver’s license in lieu of a passport.

Starting next year, travelers also will no longer be able to make a verbal declaration of U.S. citizenship to re-enter the country.

The modification is expected to last at least until summer 2008, when officials hope to require passports or similar documentation at all land and sea crossings.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced the proposed rules and new flexibility after a passport requirement for air travel to those countries produced months-long delays in processing passport applications at the State Department.

Even as recently as last week, Homeland Security officials had insisted in the face of a public outcry that they were going forward with the tougher regulations on land and sea crossings starting in January.

However, the House on Friday passed legislation to push the start date back to June 1, 2009.

Mr. Chertoff tried a different approach yesterday.

“We are not going to drop the ax on Jan. 1, 2008,” he said. “We’ve come to understand that it’s important to build flexibility in our systems.”

The announcement that officials would ease into the new rule was greeted with scorn by lawmakers critical of the agency.

Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, New York Republican, called it “more of the same bureaucratic doublespeak.”

“They ask us to trust them to get this right. Frankly these two agencies haven’t earned the trust of this Congress or the American people,” he said.

The impending rule in January has rankled those living on the Northern border, where people frequently cross into Canada for casual shopping and sports events.

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