America to Lose Nearly a Billion Dollars a Year With New Border Crossing Policies

New Zogby Poll reveals Americans are less likely to travel with new restrictions

WASHINGTON, March 14 /PRNewswire/ — America will lose hundreds of millions annually if a new federal law requiring everyone who crosses into the U.S. from Canada to have secure passport-like ID is initiated. In 2008 new regulations will require U.S. citizens to possess a passport or a similar secure document. With this new regulation in place, Michigan alone could lose more than $100 million in revenue if spontaneous travel to Canada is hindered by a complicated border ID documentation policy.

The BESTT coalition – Borders for Economic Security, Trade and Tourism, Detroit Regional Chamber, Washington State Representative Jeff Wilson (D- Anacortes) and Karen Rogers, Mayor of Port Angeles, Washington addressed these concerns and more at the League of Cities meeting in Washington, D.C. on Monday, March 13. A media briefing was held on Tuesday, March 14 from 10 – 11 a.m. at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

“The country can not afford to lose any portion of annual income,” said Karen Rogers, Mayor, Port Angeles, Washington. “It is critical that we work with U.S. leadership to protect the country’s economy and ensure that required border ID documentation remains convenient and affordable for both local citizens and Canadian visitors.”

Under the law, passports and existing pre-clearance programs like NEXUS for passengers and FAST for commercial carriers will be sufficient for establishing an individual’s identity and citizenship, however few people have these documents. In fact, only 20 percent of Americans and 40 percent of Canadians currently have a passport.

The Conference Board of Canada predicts that current plans could result in 3.5 million fewer nationwide crossings from Canada to the U.S. and more than twice this number from the U.S. to Canada. The result is $785 million annual cost to the U.S. and $1.7 billion to Canada.

Meanwhile, border crossing convenience and costs are among the top concerns for people who live in cities near the Canadian border. A recent poll conducted by Zogby International revealed that people who live in cities along the Canadian border are less likely to visit if a passport or other secure document is required. Other key findings revealed:

* Vacation, is the number one reason why Americans and Canadians visit the other country, many will not participate in proposed alternative ID policies to travel.

* Most Canadian respondents who visit America travel more than 100 miles from the border on their visits and are twice as likely as Americans to spend more than $500 each visit. This has substantial implications beyond traditional border regions.

* Most respondents are in favor of an enhanced driver’s license that combines the capabilities of a driver’s license and a border ID crossing card. Most respondents are also more likely to continue crossing the border with this dual-use document.

* Both Canadians and Americans polled overwhelmingly agree that federally proposed border crossing requirements will do little to stop terrorists.

“The Zogby poll confirmed what we suspected all along; requiring a passport to cross the border would directly affect spontaneous travel,” said Richard E. Blouse Jr., CCE, President & CEO, Detroit Regional Chamber. “If people find crossing the border a hassle or too difficult, they will not even try, potentially causing Michigan and Canada to lose hundreds of millions in revenue.”

“You would think that it should take less to cross the border between the United States and Canada than it did to go from West Berlin to East Berlin during the height of the Cold War,” said Washington State Representative Jeff Morris (D-Anacortes).

The Michigan Department of State is exploring the possibility of integrating some passport requirements into existing driver’s licenses. New federal driver’s license requirements passed through the federal REAL-ID Act may allow an enhanced driver’s license as another option for adhering to 9/11 Commission identification requirements. New federal regulations in 2008 will require states to use proof of citizenship and identity for issuance of a driver’s license.

This enhanced security measure is the BESTT coalition’s preferred type of mandatory border ID for Americans. Driver’s licenses are the most commonly held form of identification and coordination with existing license programs will help locals avoid additional costs for new forms of identification. Those polled support combining their driver’s license and border crossing ID.

More information from the Zogby poll can be obtained by visiting the BESTT Coalition’s website at http://www.besttcoalition.com/ .

BESTT – Borders for Economic Security, Trade and Tourism coalition was formed by U.S. and Canadian chambers of commerce from along the U.S. northern borders to address border issues raised since the incidents of 9/11. More information about BESTT initiatives are available at http://www.besttcoalition.com/ .

Zogby International began development of the Zogby Interactive poll in 1998. Zogby International has been tracking public opinion since 1984 in North America, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe.

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