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  1. #1
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
    PARADISE (San Diego)

    California could grant special licenses to border crossers

    California could grant special licenses to border crossers

    Associated Press
    Associated PressPosted: 12/12/2012 10:17:02 AM PST

    December 12, 2012 6:17 PM GMTUpdated: 12/12/2012 10:17:05 AM PST

    SAN DIEGO -- California drivers who make frequent trips to Mexico could get speedier border passage under a plan to offer special driver's licenses.

    U-T San Diego (New license could speed border crossings Page 1 of 2 | ) says a proposed state measure would allow Californians to have a background check and pay an extra $75 for an enhanced license.

    That license would permit them to use special existing "Ready Lanes" to cross into the U.S. from Mexico rather than wait in regular lanes, where a crossing can take an hour or more.

    The licensing program was created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which must approve its use by states.

    Several states, including Washington, already offer the licenses to those traveling to Canada.
    Information from: U-T San Diego,



  2. #2
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    PARADISE (San Diego)
    New license could speed border crossings

    California would be the first in the Southwest with “enhanced” licenses

    A common sight: lines of cars at the Mexico border awaiting entry into San Diego. — Howard Lipin

    Written b Michael Gardner
    7:23 p.m., Dec. 11, 2012

    California motorists who frequently travel to Mexico could soon be offered a special driver’s license designed to speed up border crossings while still protecting national security.

    California would become the first southwestern border state with such a program if legislation is signed into law and approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

    San Diego Assemblyman Ben Hueso is carrying a bill to launch an “enhanced driver’s license” program.

    “There is an urgent economic need to responsibly expedite the movement of people across the California-Mexico border,” the Democrat said.

    Widespread use of the new license would reduce overall border wait times and encourage more trade and travel between the two countries, supporters say.

    “Anything to help people move across the border faster and securely is good for the California economy,” said James Clark, director general of the Mexico Business Center at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce,
    He added, “Economically, it’s important to you even if you never set foot across the border.”

    But critics worry about potential invasions of privacy, the threat of stealing personal information and counterfeiting documents.

    “Our border waits are too long and everybody wants to see them go down,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, senior policy advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union office in San Diego. “But we don’t want to rush into this very expensive endeavor without being diligent about privacy and security concerns.”

    The enhanced driver’s license is a voluntary program established by the Department of Homeland Security in the wake of mounting criticism over gridlock at borders caused by tighter security and also the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative that dictated the use of passports to re-enter the U.S. from Mexico or Canada.

    Under the program, applicants would pay an additional fee of $75 and agree to specialized images that rely on facial recognition technology rather than traditional photographs by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Thorough background checks would be required. Only those eligible for U.S. passports could apply.

    In return, those holding the license can use the already quicker “Ready Lanes” to cross into the U.S. rather than wait in the slower all-purpose line. At the checkpoint, a border agent would use a hand-held computer to “read” information embedded in the license and permission to enter is almost instantaneous. Without the license, an agent must manually enter personal data into a computer and wait for verification, which compounds delays.

    The enhanced driver’s license does not replace the even stricter “pass card” that allows frequent travelers to use separate “SENTRI” lanes reserved for those with even more specialized documents and have undergone personal interviews with security officials. The enhanced driver’s license would replace the need to carry a passport, however.

    The Smart Border Coalition, a cross-border group of government officials and business leaders, has been pushing for speedier checkpoints.

    The coalition estimates the average border wait in the regular lanes takes about 70 minutes, stretching to as long as three hours at peak travel times. That’s much more than those who have special documents for the “SENTRI” or “Ready” lanes.

    Those delays translate into the loss of nearly $1.3 billion, 3 million potential working hours, 35,000 jobs and $42 million in lost wages in the San Diego region alone, according to coalition figures.

    Clearing congestion also will encourage Mexican residents to more frequently shop and dine in the San Diego area, Clark said. He suggests a domino effect — luring some travelers to a quicker entry point would make all lanes flow more smoothly.

    “If I had to spend up to three hours to cross the border I don’t know how often I would shop in California,” he said. “Three hours is unacceptable and inhumane.”

    Hueso carried similar legislation that cleared two Assembly committees on bipartisan unanimous votes earlier this year. However, it was eventually shelved over the $4.5 million startup costs for DMV.

    That bill drew support from some officials in Mexico.

    “This will substantially reduce the loss of jobs, trade and time by facilitating border crossings and will cause an important economic influx in both states,” Baja California Gov. José Guadalupe Osuna Millán wrote in a letter of support.

    “Baja California’s public and private sectors hope that this initiative receives the required endorsements and that we are able to offer our visitors from California an excellent alternative for identification upon returning to their country,” his letter continued.

    Critics are wary, arguing that the embedded information can be illegally read by specialized devices from a distance, compromising personal information and privacy. The ability to obtain that information via this “skimming” process could also lead to counterfeiting, opponents say.

    The ACLU’s Dooley-Sammuli said the program could be just a first step to requiring all licenses to include a technology that makes it easier for government to recognize and monitor citizens.

    Clark, the chamber official, noted the program is voluntary and has built-in security regulations to prevent misuse and the licenses would include information the government probably already knows.

    Although California could become the first southwest state to offer enhanced driver’s licenses, it is not a unique program. Several northern states, including Washington, already offer the licenses to those traveling to Canada. Washington state has issued 339,000 as of November; New York more than 100,000.

    No hearing date has been set and Gov. Jerry Brown has not taken a position.



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