“Papers, please!”

Starting today, every American citizen is now required to have a passport to return to the U.S., even for travel to Mexico and Canada.

Beginning today, American travelers entering the U.S. by land, air or sea from Mexico, Canada, Bermuda or the Caribbean are required to carry a U.S. passport.

“The basic, number one rule is that everyone should get a passport,” said Vince Gargiulo, owner of Cruise Planners, a Gainesville travel agency. “That would be the safest way to travel.”

The new regulations also will apply to cruisers, with an exception for “closed loop cruises,” which travel within the Western Hemisphere and depart from and return to the same port.

Although closed loop cruisers are not required to have a passport to travel, Gargiulo still recommends that everyone get a passport as soon as possible.

If someone on a cruise fell ill and needed to return to the U.S., they would not be able to.

As Reason points out, this even took former Presidents Bush and Clinton by surprise.

Bill Clinton and George W. Bush admitted yesterday they had no idea the U.S. was implementing a new rule Monday that would require Canadians and Americans to have passports to cross the border.

The former presidents were caught off guard during a 90-minute joint appearance in Toronto when moderator Frank McKenna, the former Canadian ambassador to the U.S., spoke about how Canadians feel slighted by the new rule.

Of course, there’s no good reason for this. American citizens have been freely travelling to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean now for decades on the strength of a driver’s license. There’s no point to this whatsoever.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, US Politics, ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. Dodd says:
  2. Steve Plunk says:

    Alex is absolutely correct, there is no justification for this. It’s just another little slip down the slope we have been warned about.

  3. Michael says:

    Wasn’t this supposed to have gone into effect like a year ago? I seem to remember this new rule going into effect for people taking trips in the Caribbean.

  4. Herb says:

    Hmmm, I thought this was implemented months ago. It’s been in the works for years.

    And frankly, I don’t buy that Bush is just now becoming aware of it. Here’s Bush in 2005 being surprised by the “new” (but not yet implemented) rules:

    The president said Thursday he was surprised by the proposed rules announced last week by the State and Homeland Security departments.

    And this:

    In December, Bush signed into law an intelligence overhaul (search) that requires tighter border security against terrorists and was the basis for the passport proposal. The White House did not say why the president was unaware of the plans, which his administration announced a week ago.

    Now I’m not calling Bush a liar, but what kind of idiot can he be if he’s as surprised in 09 as he was in 05 about a policy he himself implemented???

  5. Eric Florack says:

    Of course, there’s no good reason for this. American citizens have been freely travelling to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean now for decades on the strength of a driver’s license. There’s no point to this whatsoever.

    That’s true, Alex. Then again, as has been pointed up repeatedly in voting rights arguments, they’re far too easy for illegals to obatin and or falsify, and the recent psh for Motor Voter hasn’t helped that situation. With the driver’s license no longer being nearly as ‘proof positive’ of country of origin that it used to be, some response was called for. I’m not suggesting it’s a good thing, but given the situation with driver’s licenses, there seems little choice in the matter.

    Now I’m not calling Bush a liar, but what kind of idiot can he be if he’s as surprised in 09 as he was in 05 about a policy he himself implemented???

    I think if you look again, Herb, you’ll find Alex was talking there, about one aspect of the new rule…

    If someone on a cruise fell ill and needed to return to the U.S., they would not be able to.

    …. not that the rule itself was in place.

  6. Furhead says:

    I also thought it had already been implemented. My 4-year-old and 1-year-old have passports so that we can occasionally cross the Canadian border which is a mere 40 minutes away. Keeping out the baby terrorists is priority #1.

  7. Michael says:

    Keeping out the baby terrorists is priority #1.

    Hey, that’s no joking matter. Those little guys are biological weapons factories!

  8. Boyd says:

    American citizens have been freely travelling to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean now for decades on the strength of a driver’s license.

    Definitely not true, at least not reliably so. Back in the ’90s when I was a contractor with INS, I saw a significant number of folks denied entry when all they had for ID was a driver’s license.

    Granted, it wasn’t a blanket requirement, and there were other factors at play when entry was denied, but certainly for over a decade, a North American traveler hasn’t been able to rely on just a driver’s license to gain access to the United States. At least during that timeframe, there’s been some risk that the DL would be insufficient for entry.

  9. David says:

    Of course there’s a point to this. point: Turning citizens into subjects.

  10. odograph says:

    When I drove up through Canada to Alaska, maybe 5 years ago, they required a passport or birth certificate to re-enter at Alaska. I believe it was a terrorism thing. I didn’t like it then, but this seems a small move from that.

    FWIW, my radar will be up much more for what they make us carry within the country, rather than at entry.

  11. The Strategic MC says:

    “American citizens have been freely traveling to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean now for decades on the strength of a driver’s license.”

    And far too often, far too many illegal immigrants have been “freely” entering the U.S. on the strength of a (bogus) driver’s license.

    Here on the southern border, the benefits of the new policy are obvious: Yesterday, the border wait for traffic entering San Diego from Tijuana, usually 90 minutes to 2 hrs at peak times, was down to less than 15 minutes.

    Coincidentally, the wait time was dramatically increased for people who lined up to climb the fence and sneak across the border.

  12. markm says:

    Bill Clinton and George W. Bush admitted yesterday they had no idea the U.S. was implementing a new rule Monday

    I can see that if you are not on a border state. Here in Michigan it’s old news but if you were from the interior I can see it not being big news.

    So what it amounts too is when when entering or leaving Canada we get to have our vehicles ripped apart…but with a passport in hand. I’ll stay put, thanks.

  13. Herb says:

    I think if you look again, Herb, you’ll find Alex was talking there, about one aspect of the new rule…

    I was actually talking about Bush’s recurring surprise, not anything Alex had said.

    Bush in May of 09 (From thestar.com’s story linked above):

    “I’ll be frank with you Frank, I don’t know about the passport issue,” Bush told the crowd of 6,000.

    Bush in April 05 (From the AP report I linked above):

    “When I first read that in the newspaper about the need to have passports, particularly today’s crossings that take place, about a million for instance in the state of Texas, I said, `What’s going on here?”‘ Bush said when asked about the rules at a meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

    Don’t you find that just a little strange? Maybe he really doesn’t “know about the passport issue.” Maybe, as the guy who implemented it, he does… Like I said, I’m not calling him a liar and I’m not calling him stupid, but something just doesn’t add up there.

    At any rate, I’m a little sick my life being made more difficult to deter terrorists/illegals/etc. Aren’t you?

  14. Bithead says:

    At any rate, I’m a little sick my life being made more difficult to deter terrorists/illegals/etc. Aren’t you?

    Sure.
    Wouldn’t be needed, though if we hadn’t spent all that time and money trying to make it easier for illegals to obtain driver’s liceses, so they could drive and get taxpayer funded services, and vote for Democrats, Hmmm?

  15. The Strategic MC says:

    “If someone on a cruise fell ill and needed to return to the U.S., they would not be able to.”

    Not true.

    Section 212 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA), gives discretionary authority to the DHS Secretary to allow aliens entry into the U.S. for “urgent humanitarian reasons.” I’m pretty sure that this covers emergency medical treatment.

    Additionally, Title 8 of the U.S. Code has entry provisions for the emergency treatment of aliens.

    Closed loop cruises, as they never embark passengers from non-U.S. ports, are not effected by the new rules.

  16. The Strategic MC says:

    “At any rate, I’m a little sick my life being made more difficult to deter terrorists/illegals/etc. Aren’t you?”

    Yes. Now build the g-d fence and let’s have the immigration controls that most U.S. citizens demand.

    Anyway, if your life were made “easier”, you might have to give up cheap lawn care, Mexican Combo plates and pay $5.00 for a head of lettuce; Didn’t you see a Day Without Mexicans?

  17. The Strategic MC says:

    Much to do about nothing?:

    “…(B)eginning yesterday, state-issued driver’s licenses, identification cards and birth certificates are no longer acceptable documents for travelers 16 and older…”
    Oscar Preciado, director of the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa ports of entry, (San Diego) said that for now, travelers who don’t comply are being handed informational fliers. Eventually, those without the right documents will undergo a secondary inspection.”
    www3.signonsandiego.com/stories/2009/jun/02/new-rites-passage-debut/?uniontrib

    Full and strict enforcement (i.e., “no passport, no entry”) is not in effect.

  18. Herb says:

    …illegals to obtain driver’s liceses, so they could drive and get taxpayer funded services, and vote for Democrats…

    I guess we differ on this one, because preventing illegals from getting drivers licenses may feel like a punitive measure but the end result is…a bunch of unlicensed drivers driving the streets.

    I’m very sympathetic to the idea that we don’t want to “reward” bad behavior, but we should also be aware of how we encourage it too.

  19. […] Alex Knapp […]

  20. Eric Florack says:

    I guess we differ on this one, because preventing illegals from getting drivers licenses may feel like a punitive measure but the end result is…a bunch of unlicensed drivers driving the streets.

    \

    I think you may be misreading me because from my POV we don’t disagree on that point at all.

  21. The Strategic MC says:

    “…but the end result is…a bunch of unlicensed drivers driving the streets.”

    True, as far it goes. However.

    Is this an equitable (to say nothing of wise) trade: a de facto legal document in exchange for a certification of superficial familiarity with traffic law?

  22. Of course, there’s no good reason for this.

    Of course that begs the age old question of “What is good?” If the good is defined as building up the federal bureaucracy and creating a false sense of security, then perhaps there are good reasons for this after all.

  23. Hangtown Bob says:

    So……

    Do Mexicans coming to the U.S. legally have to have a Mexican passport now?? If not, why can Mexicans coming here have a looser entry requirement than U.S. citizens?