Stricter rules for entry are ignored at border
Inspectors are allowing travelers to enter the U.S. without secure ID
More than 18 months after U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspectors were supposed to start enforcing stringent ID requirements at the nation's land borders, millions of travelers are still being admitted without passports or other secure IDs, a new government audit shows.
An Office of Inspector General report released Monday found that CBP remains unprepared to fully implement the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which officially took effect in June 2009 and requires all travelers, including U.S. citizens, to carry passports or one of a handful of other forms of secure ID.
In the first eight months after the requirements took effect, 2.3 million travelers failed to provide proper paperwork at U.S. land ports of entry.
CBP internal policy, issued shortly before the implementation deadline, only required travelers who provided improper paperwork multiple times to undergo added inspection, resulting in additional screening for about 9,000 people based only on their lack of documentation, according to the report.
Auditors singled out Texas for having the lowest compliance rate in the country, with nearly 1-in-10 travelers — 1.1 million people — arriving at Texas land borders without proper identification during the period of the review.
Critics warned that the failure to fully implement the more stringent ID requirements, mandated by Congress as part of its response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, amounts to a security vulnerability.
Until the new travel document requirement is fully enforced, OIG's auditors wrote, the agency "continues to incur risk" that it will admit travelers falsely claiming to be citizens of the U.S., Canada, Bermuda and Mexico.
"This report highlights why our nation's border security must be our first priority," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, in response to the OIG's findings. "The WHTI requirements have been in place for over a year, and it is unacceptable that the administration failed to ask for adequate resources needed to fully comply with the mandate." (...)