Over the last two weeks, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken critical steps to address significant historical flaws in border and national security by issuing the final regulations to implement the REAL ID Act and initiating further implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). Both actions are long overdue and are logical responses to concerns cited by the bi-partisan 9/11 Commission.

When analyzing the efforts to implement the WHTI, one does have to wonder what is the big deal? As of January 31, 2008, all individuals seeking to enter the U.S. at land borders will have to present documentary proof of citizenship. Until this change in policy takes effect, any individual in the Western Hemisphere can enter the United States by attesting they are a United States citizen and presenting a driver’s license. This approach places entry into our country into the realm of the honor system – a concept that has failed in our immigration policies – and relegated DHS Inspectors to the realm of bartenders attempting to distinguish a phony driver’s license from a real one.

Parents of teenagers and those of us who were underage in college will easily recognize the ridiculous nature of this policy and the ease in which this burden can be overcome with fraudulent drivers’ licenses. However, here we are dealing with border and national security concerns as opposed to underage drinking – a distinction that favors immediate action to address this vulnerability.

Applying this sense of urgency and common sense, DHS announced that as of January 31, 2008, it will no longer apply the honor system in terms of citizen attestations. Documentation will be required and more importantly it needs to establish citizenship or eligibility to enter the U.S. This is a logical step in terms of securing our borders, yet it has met resistance due to concerns of our borders being paralyzed by the documentary requirement.

In fairness to this concern, DHS must prepare to augment inspection resources in the first few months of this transition as the public and DHS deal with the initial “growing pains.” Hopefully DHS will avoid the embarrassing situation that arose when the Department of State was incapable of gauging the significant number of passport applications by U.S. citizens caused by the initial announcements of the WHTI, leading to long lines and several canceled vacations this past summer.

I believe that after the initial learning curve, the process and wait times at inspection booths will decrease as uniformity in document requirements is created and DHS Inspectors no longer have to play 21-questions to determine if an attesting individual is lying or a U.S. Citizen. Despite these concerns, the logical security measures incorporated in the WHTI should be embraced by the public. Kudos to DHS Secretary Chertoff for calling it as it is and telling critics to “grow up.”