Michigan, USA - Chaldeans will have to contend with tighter U.S. Border crossings as new rules go into affect today. The new rules for the types of identification U.S. and Canadian citizens must present to cross into the country will require more documentation.
Authorities were optimistic the changes wouldn't cause significant delays. Under the new rules, anyone crossing the border will no longer be allowed to simply declare to immigration officers at border crossings that they are citizens.
Instead, those 19 and older will have to show proof of citizenship -- a passport, trusted traveler card or a birth certificate and government-issued ID such as a driver's license.
Detroit, the busiest northern border crossing, saw no additional waits, said Ron Smith, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection in Detroit. The bridge and tunnel crossings between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario typically can see wait times of about 30 minutes to enter the U.S. "Everything has been running really smoothly," he said.
Officers at the ports will have latitude to admit people who are unaware of the changes once their identities are confirmed, Ahern said. In Detroit, authorities will provide a grace period for travelers without the extra ID, and will hand out fliers explaining the changes, Smith said.
"The first couple of days, weeks maybe, could add a few seconds to the inspection process. But once people become aware of these requirements, and we're getting the word out to them ... those minor delays should disappear," Smith said.
The new rules came about after congress approved the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative in 2004, which requires verified citizenship and identification of all those entering the country from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. The passport requirement for land and sea crossings has been delayed until June 2009.
Chaldeans wishing to cross into Mexico will also be affected. Last week, Mexican tourism officials in Tijuana introduced a "Get Your Passport" campaign that gives U.S. passport holders discounts at restaurants and shops.
Jason Kizzy of San Diego said he will stop going to Mexico until he replaces his birth certificate. He has an old photocopy but worries it won't pass muster with inspectors.
The new passport cards the size of credit cards will allow citizens to cross the U.S.-Mexican border effectively and efficiently. Applications should be available starting Friday, although processing will take three to four months. Cards without previously issued passports will cost $45 for adults and $35 for children; they will cost $20 and $10, respectively, for those with passports.
Drivers' licenses enhanced with proof of citizenship and a radio frequency identification chip also will be accepted, Ahern added. Four states including Arizona have signed up for a federal program to offer the licenses.
For more information please visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website at http://www.cbp.gov/