The poll numbers are staggering. Unless the Department of Homeland Security finds a better way to monitor border crossings than the costly passport-or-ID rule that goes into effect in 21 months, the economy of this binational region will take a devastating $2.5 billion hit.
Let's put that into perspective. Closing Lockport's Delphi operations would drain an estimated $600 million a year from the local economy. The federal government's tightening of the border would drain $800 million per year on the American side and cost Canadian businesses $1.7 billion -- more than four times the impact of a Delphi closing.
The numbers, of course, are soft. They come from a Zogby International telephone poll of 1,213 border-state Americans and 502 Canadians. The poll measured the likelihood that respondents would cross the border for vacations or visits if they knew (most of them didn't) that either a $99 passport or $50 border ID card would be needed for every person in their party.
If nothing else, though, the poll adds compelling weight to local congressional calls for an economic impact study that would more sharply focus the potential financial devastation. This federal bright idea bypassed that step, riding the Bush administration's overall theme of national security above all.
Even there, the rule is suspect -- experts have noted that simply requiring identification isn't much hindrance to infiltration by secretive terrorists who are citizens, carry valid passports or can forge the documents. This marginal step toward better security must be weighed against the likelihood of the huge regional economic harm it would cause, for little gain.