Collins bill would tweak PASS Card project

Changes may delay requirement for biometric credential

EASY CROSSING: Sen. Susan Collins wants the Homeland Security Department to consider using biometric driver's licenses as acceptable border credentials.

Alex Wong

Executive branch plans to require all travelers re-entering the United States to present secure biometric proof of citizenship or legal residence could face changes and additional delays under legislation proposed by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

Collins, who is the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, joined Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) in sponsoring an amendment to a pending immigration reform bill that would tweak the technical and procedural requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).

Collins' amendment would require the Homeland Security Department to fully evaluate the results of current projects that are testing the use of driver's licenses as proof of citizenship before imposing the new credential requirement.
DHS and Washington state have agreed to launch a program that would provide a document combining the functions of an upgraded driver's license mandated by the federal Real ID Act with those of the PASS card, or passport-lite credential, to be created by WHTI [GCN, March 26, Page 1].

Collins' amendment would waive passport-processing fees in some cases and embed in law the DHS policy decision to exempt children traveling with their parents from the new biometric credential requirement.

In a statement issued when the draft ammendment was introduced, Collins emphasized the importance to her Maine constituents of quick and easy border crossing.

'It is critical that we strike a balance between the security of our nation's borders and the free flow of commerce and travel to and from the United States,' Collins said.

Collins' amendment would affect WHTI's technology provisions partly by requiring that all border checkpoints have the ability to process and read PASS cards.

Fee-free

The Collins/Coleman ammendment would ease the process of obtaining a PASS card by mandating creation of mobile enrollment teams and six permanent PASS card enrollment stations at ports of entry, which would accept applications without any processing fee.

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