Zack Hutchins
Director of Communications

For Release — Monday, October 24, 2005


ALBANY—Requiring Americans who cross to and from Canada to carry a passport “would create serious economic problems for tourism and business activity,” The Business Council said in testimony today at a federal hearing in Buffalo.

"Almost 350,000 New York jobs are supported by U.S.-Canada trade," Tom Minnick, the Council’s lobbyist specializing in transportation issues, said in testimony delivered today at a hearing sponsored by the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security. "Both Canadian and U.S. businesses have scores of cross-border operations operating almost seamlessly. This must be enhanced and encouraged.”

He added: “Any federal actions affecting the border must enhance and support this continuing
business integration, not discourage it.”

Minnick testified on a proposed regulation under the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 that would require people crossing borders to carry passports or other special documentation for even routine border crossings.

Passed earlier this year, the Real ID Act gave the department of Homeland Security the authority to set security standards and determine whether state driver’s licenses and other ID cards meet their standards. Only ID cards approved by Homeland Security will be accepted for use by the federal government.

A driver’s license or DMV photo id is currently enough documentation for most border crossings, the testimony said. “Since driver’s licenses are so widely used, we think that they should be the document of choice for the secure ID. There is no reason to re-invent the wheel,” Minnick said.

The testimony said a passport requirement would needlessly burden businesses that transact hundreds of millions of dollars in business each year. For example:

“These projects and actions show that our efforts continue toward eliminating barriers to trade, tourism and exchanges of all kinds. These efforts demonstrate the mind-set of a border-less relationship between New York and Canada.”

The testimony also noted that New York’s long tradition of open borders with Canada results in frequent trips and vacations that are impulsive as opposed to planned and that are typically for brief durations to nearby destinations. “This could end or be severely diminished with additional,
burdensome administrative ID requirements.”

“With more than four million total visits by residents of both countries in 2004, the New York- Canadian partnership has the largest bilateral tourism industry in the U.S. This averages 11,343 visits per day. The value of these visits was $487 million to New York and $560 million to Canada.

“This kind of success should be encouraged, not discouraged by a failure to see the unintended consequences of a too-restrictive border identification requirement.”

Whether the problem with the proposal lies in the federal enabling legislation or in the way it is being interpreted, the Council urged the U.S. Department of Homeland Security “to work together with the many stakeholders and come to a realistic conclusion satisfactory to both countries."

New York State already has the technology needed for secure licenses, the testimony noted. This includes colors that are difficult to forge, patterns that cannot be photocopied, and tamper- detection features, and a two-dimensional barcode verifying certain personal information and other altering detection features.

What’s more, technology needed to upgrade security features of current licenses already exists.