ACLU Praises Suspension of Traveling Restrictions That Don’t Fly

June 8, 2007 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON, DC – The American Civil Liberties Union today welcomed a temporary withdrawal of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) that required Americans to show a passport when traveling to countries bordering the United States. Formerly, such travel required only a valid driver’s license. The ACLU has spoken out against the new travel restrictions, pointing to their excessive restrictions on Americans, disregard for privacy and ultimate unworkability.

“What we have been saying all along is slowly unfolding: if these massive ID overhauls create too much red tape for even the government to handle, it will never work for ordinary Americans,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “So far, this unworkable law has succeeded only in creating an enormous backlog of passport applications and ruining vacation plans for thousands of Americans this summer.”

The Bush administration reversed its WHTI because the State Department was inundated with passport applications, causing delays lasting several months.

In the future, WHTI would allow passengers to use a new type of identification yet to be created that could pave the way for a national ID. Like other recently proposed national ID programs, the WHTI identification document would contain machine-readable biometric information to be stored in a vast national database.

“This initiative’s failure should come as a surprise no one, and it must stand as a lesson to supporters of the Real ID Act and other ‘magic bullets’ for complicated security problems,” said Tim Sparapani, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel. “Plans for a new ID can’t work because the American people will not put up with a bureaucracy blind to its needs.”

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