Tag Archives: passports

Passport Cards

14 Jul

Add this to the potpourri of border crossing identification options available to people crossing between the US and Canada by land.

The Passport card is $20 for current Passport holders as a renewal, or $45 as a new document for adults, and $35 for kids. It is valid proof of citizenship for land and sea border crossings to Canada and Mexico, and the RFID chip inside it will activate information stored on DHS computers – it will not, itself, contain any identification information.

I hadn’t heard anything about it in our local media after seeing an ad for it in the post office downtown. It’s about half the price of a proper passport.

We Can't Win for Losing

11 Jun

This article in Salon, which skewers the United States’ idiotic, backwards, counterproductive border policy with Canada, is must-reading for any Buffalonian.

A snippet:

It’s terrible for trade,” he said. “NAFTA was supposed to be so we were all strong — 450 million of us to compete with those guys in Europe. If you go to Europe, it’s wide open. The borders here are not open, but were getting that way. If 9/11 hadn’t happened, it would have been laxer. Seventy-five percent of the time, when I took a bus to see the Tigers, we just breezed through. Now, they stop the bus and board it.”

Like many other Canadians, Mastronardi finds the restrictions insulting. Proudly multicultural, Canada is scrupulous about minority rights. To American border hawks, that makes it a haven for radical Muslims. In February, Chertoff told the New York Daily News that “more than a dozen” potential terrorists have tried to infiltrate the United States from Canada. According to a DHS report, Canada harbors “known terrorist affiliate and extremist groups, including Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria.”

Mastronardi scoffed at the idea that the Canada was a haven for radical Muslims. “You’ve got eight million Muslims. We’ve got, what, 800,000?”

This February, I made a trip around the Golden Horseshoe, a cultural and economic region that encompasses the western bell-end of Lake Ontario, from Toronto to Rochester, N.Y. The two sides of the Niagara River have been getting along splendidly ever since the War of 1812 ended. Ontario has the wineries, the Shaw Festival, and the best view of Niagara Falls. New York has the Walden Galleria. The Buffalo Sabres depend on Canadian hockey fans; the Bills are so popular in Canada that they’ll be playing games in Toronto next year. Canadians also cross the border to ski in western New York and fly out of Buffalo-Niagara International Airport.

At Fort Erie Race Track & Slots in Ontario, a popular destination for Americans, Sue, a gambler from Buffalo, was lingering by the slots. “I just carry my birth certificate,” she said. “I got asked coming across. It’s a lot harder going back. They’ll look in your luggage. I saw a group of 80-year-olds, and they had their bags open. It’s not like they’re al-Qaida.”


I visited the Soo three years ago. Even then, the border was a serious issue. The DHS would have been a source of derision, with its fleet of Turtle-waxed SUVs and its speedboats churning the river, if it hadn’t make a quick run to Canada such a pain in the ass. “They’re not fighting terrorism,” griped the wife of a Canadian tour boat captain whose business was suffering. “They’re fighting tourism.”

Canadians think the United States has gone all Rambo since 9/11. I found that out on the International Bridge Walk, which starts at Lake Superior State and ends across the river. One morning, I fell in step with David Orazietti, the local member of the Provincial Parliament. Orazietti’s uncle had been captain of the first Lake Superior State hockey team. As a boy, his Pee-Wee hockey squad played in Michigan. So he was worried that a Fortress America would estrange the Soos. The new border-control measures mean that Americans are practically being told to stay home, he said.

At the Canadian end of the bridge, we walked through the border booths, no questions asked. A welcoming committee garlanded us with maple-leaf flags.

This summer, bridge walkers will have to bring birth certificates to celebrate the closeness between the United States and Canada. Next year, passports or the equivalent. It doesn’t make sense to Leisa Mansfield, director of the Sault Chamber of Commerce.

“When you think that the 9/11 attackers were here legally, I doubt a passport is going to protect us against terrorist threats,” she said.

And that’s the point. All of this is sound and fury, signifying nothing. The federal government figures any threat – however minor – must go to eleven, and it has acted accordingly. Octogenarians get searched. All this helps to further retard economic development in border areas like Buffalo and Niagara Falls. It’s bad enough we hamstring ourselves with a despicable state government and lackadaisical county officials. It’s bad enough we keep clinging to past glories rather than plan for future goals. It’s bad enough the state has made itself inhospitable to both business and residents. At least Buffalo is next door to America’s largest trading partner, right? At least Buffalo has all that water, right? Well, the water’s still there, but we’re treating Canada like Mexico, which is disproportionate to the threat.

If we had an ounce of forward thinking, we would, through a bilateral treaty, harmonize entry requirements for Canada and the US. DHS would work in conjunction with Customs Canada at points of entry throughout North America, and border requirements between the two countries would be abolished.

Imagine if we actually installed high-speed rail between a borderless Western New York and Southern Ontario. Hell, you could commute to Toronto from Buffalo or Niagara Falls.

There is so much untapped potential in this city, looking forward. But we have no brand, no goals; instead, we cruise along in an easy mediocrity, and constantly consider what could have been while ignoring what should be.

Western Hemisphere Travel Inhibitor

12 Jan


Any WNYer who crosses the border – whether for the casino, for Toronto, for Chinese food, or for bingo – knows the drill. Even if you hand the inspector your passports that are stamped “United States of America” in bright, gold letters, he or she will still ask you your citizenship. This sometimes redundant back-and-forth was – for years – enough to get you across, provided you also had a driver’s license or other form of ID.

Like a lot of other legislation Washington’s shat out in the last decade, the law that will change all this does the exact opposite of what its name implies.

The “Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative” inhibits and discourages travel in the western hemisphere.

Want to swing over to Ming Teh for an unplanned lunch? Not if you don’t have a $100-and-wait-3-months passport, you won’t. Going to IKEA? Go get a certified copy of your birth certificate, first. Maybe you can buy a RIBBA frame for it.

The state is working with DHS to pull some sort of ID out of their collective rears that will be valid, wallet-sized, carry-it-with-you, proof of citizenship. Come to think of it, maybe the rollout of that ID could have been the condition precedent for the new policy.