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CLINTON ASKS BRIEFING ON NEW BORDER REQUIREMENT

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., on Friday wrote to two Cabinet members requesting a briefing on the economic impacts of the Bush administration's plans to require passports for northern border travel by 2008.

Clinton said she wrote to Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff after reading that President Bush ordered a review of this policy.

She said border security must be paramount, but added "it is crucial that any new requirement be sensitive to the potentially serious impact of this proposal on tourism and the regional economy."

While Clinton's recent letter is firmer than her initial response on April 5, it stops short of what Rep. Louse M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, proposed when the passport mandate was announced. Slaughter said the proposal should be scrapped and replaced with other identification systems.

Passports cost $97 and are good for 10 years for those aged 16 and older, and for five years for those 15 and younger. The application process involves filling out a form in a passport acceptance facility, including many post offices, providing two photographs, proving U.S. citizenship, and producing a valid form of photo identification, such as a driver's license.

A passport generally takes several weeks to receive in the mail.

Those reliant on cross-border trade fear such an involved process will kill spur-of-the-moment travel to spots like Niagara Falls.

Clinton originally said that the Bush administration should spend more homeland security money to make the new passport system work better.

More than three dozen House Democrats, including Slaughter and Brian Higgins of Buffalo, last week asked the White House to find an alternative to the passport plan.

On Monday, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., will be in Buffalo to meet with regional business leaders to discuss means of finding alternatives to the passport requirement.

Although the president has ordered a review, administration agencies plan to begin this week the process of raising identification requirements in some form for Western Hemisphere travel.

dturner@buffnews.com

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