New border crossing requirements implemented
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U.S. Custom and Border Protection Officer John Kildall checks the passports of Mel and Lynn Twitchell near the Black Ball Ferry Line office in Port Angeles on Monday. The Twitchells had just driven their truck off the MV Coho and were getting ready to drive through downtown Port Angeles. -- Photo by Chris Tucker/Peninsula Daily News

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES -- It was "just another day" at the port of entry in Port Angeles on Monday, the first day that passports or other high-level documentation was required of U.S. citizens to cross from Canada.

The same was true at the third-busiest U.S.-Canada border crossing at Blaine, north of Bellingham, and all along the 4,000-mile boundary that separates Canada with the Lower 48, according to reports.

The Port Angeles port of entry, where the MV Coho and Victoria Express ferries operated to and from Victoria on Monday, is the westernmost along the border.

"It seems to be going really well from our limited perspective in Port Angeles," said Daniel Horsman, port director for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, about Monday's full implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, a post-9/11 homeland security measure designed to beef up security at the northern and southern U.S. borders.

"As for Port Angeles, there were no issues and no concerns whatsoever," added Scott Willard, acting assistant port director for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Seattle.

"All arrivals were compliant. It was just another day for us."

Willard came to Port Angeles to assist with the new requirements on Monday. He returned to Seattle after an event-free morning and afternoon.

Regular volumes

Regular volumes, estimated to be 300 to 350 this time of year, entered the U.S. through the Coho ferry terminal in Port Angeles, Horsman said.

A driver's license is no longer adequate identification for returning to the U.S. by land or sea.

Travelers must now present a passport, a passport card, an enhanced driver's license or a "trusted traveler" document like a Nexus card to return home.

However, agents say they will not detain U.S. citizens in Canada if they forget their passports.

"Basically, if you're a U.S. citizen returning home, you are not going to be refused entry into the U.S.," said Chief Tom Schreiber, a field operations specialist and spokesman with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in Blaine.

At least in the early going, Customs officials will simply provide a brochure with information on the new requirements and issue a warning to violators.

'Savvy travelers'

Schreiber said at least 95 percent of the travelers entering the U.S. on Interstate 5 were compliant with the new ID requirements.

"The people in this corridor here are savvy travelers," he said.

Border officials will eventually crack down on non-compliant travelers. The duration of the leniency period has not been determined.

"We're operating under the assumption that they just didn't get the word," Schreiber said.

"We're going to look very hard, as time goes on, at somebody who does not want to carry their documents."

Busiest crossing

At the busiest passenger crossing along the northern border, the Peace Bridge between Buffalo, N.Y., and Fort Erie, Ontario, traffic flowed smoothly with Customs and Border Protection officers reporting a 95 percent compliance rate with the new ID requirement.

The Peace Bridge carried 8.9 million autos and 47,100 commercial buses in 2008.

To the south, those crossing the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge in southern Texas described the light traffic Monday as normal, with cars and pedestrians facing short lines.

"There was nothing. Everything is all right," said Yvonne Rivera, a U.S. citizen who lives in Reynosa, Mexico, and commutes to work in Texas.

The 22-year-old said she got her passport in anticipation of the rule change.

San Diego-Tijuana

Traffic at the San Diego-Tijuana border crossing -- the world's busiest -- is down about 12 percent from last year, partly due to the weak economy and fears of swine flu, said Oscar Preciado, the port director for Customs and Border Protection.

About 85 percent of the U.S. citizens filing through the San Ysidro crossing at the southern terminus of Interstate 5 on Monday carried a passport or other acceptable travel document, Preciado said.

"It's a nonevent," he said.

________

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


PDN reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at rob.ollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 01. 2009 11:24PM
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