I published a guest opinion article in the Seattle Times today noting that fears that the Western Hempisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) will hurt our economy are unfounded. As the June 1 deadline approaches, it is important to understand what this program will and will not do.
As I note in the op-ed, in light of the economic challenges we face today, it can be easy to forget about terrorism and the threats that led to a new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and a slew of new security measures.
However, the WHTI will not only make us safer from another terrorist attack, it will also help manage border traffic in an effecient manner. The program was designed around the concept that shaving even a few seconds off each inspection will help reduce gridlock at the land border. So DHS and the State Department built a cheaper, easier-to-carry passport card that can be used instead of a traditional passport for crossing land borders. By including a vicinity Radio Frequency Identification Device chip, the card links to secure databases, allowing border officers to determine a traveler’s citizenship and identity before the car stops in front of their booth. Officers can read multiple cards simultaneously, including an entire car full of people. Our busiest 39 ports of entry will have the equipment in place to read these cards by June 1.