New Passport Card For Land Crossings

by David Simmonds

Starting in February, the U.S. State Department will begin accepting applications for a new concept they are creatively calling a Passport Card. These I.D’s will be available only to those people who live near the border and travel frequently between The U.S. and Mexico or Canada by land or sea. The cards will cost just $45.00, compared to $97.00 for a traditional passport. They will expire in 10 years at which time they can be renewed for $20.00.

The new card idea was developed as a compromise between the Department of Homeland Security and those merchants who make a living from border trade. The credit card size cards, they say, will allow for a more efficient method of screening border crossers in a way that will  not discourage people from traveling between countries. That sounds good so far.

However, privacy concerns have been voiced by various organizations about the nature of the cards. The new technology will allow the cards to be read from as far as 30 feet away, instead of needing to be swiped through a card reader as passports are. Opponents of the cards have voiced concerns about the ease of identity theft and questions about exactly what information will be embedded in the card chips. The feds claim that they will contain no biographical information and will not be used in tracking people’s whereabouts, but with the recent history of unwarranted wiretaps by the National Security Agency (the fear agents) where the emails, phone calls and text messages of Amercan citizens have been monitored, there is ample reason for wide-eyed scepticism.

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