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Slaughter seeks analysis of passport initiative

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership and other northern border business groups have endorsed efforts by Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, to force the Bush administration to study the costs of requiring passport-like documents to enter and leave Canada by land in 2008.

The Bush administration last month said a wallet-sized PASS card, costing about $50 apiece, will be required of all those who cross the border including infants.

Turned down last year when she requested a study of the costs and benefits by the General Accountability Office, an arm of Congress, Slaughter has turned to a standing presidential directive that she says would require the Department of Homeland Security to make such a review.

Republicans who control Congress and the White have successfully blocked all attempts by opponents of the proposed passport initiative to obtain a federal study into how businesses and communities will be affected by the mandate.

The GAO, which is answerable to the Republican congressional majority, last year said it was too busy to study the subject.

So she and Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., sent a new request based on an old presidential order to Joshua Bolten, White House budget director, on Feb. 3. Not hearing back from Bolten, Slaughter has enlisted the backing of northern border chambers of commerce.

Slaughter said the executive order requires such a study when the anticipated cost of implementing it tops $100 million a year.

Under the executive order, Slaughter said, the study must be completed before the regulation -- in this case, a new requirement that passports or a passport-like document be presented to cross the border by land -- can be implemented.

Homeland Security "continues to downplay the significant economic damages that its . . . proposal will mean for border communities and the tourist industry," Rep. Slaughter said.

"For months, my requests that [Homeland Security] seriously examine the economic ramifications of this proposal have not resulted in any action. Hopefully, by employing this Executive Order, we will finally get the economic analysis needed and deserved by border communities."

Slaughter and Stupak said the State Department has indicated that the passport initiative will cost cross-border travelers more than the $100 million threshold.


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