the amerikan internal passport is due in before the end of this year!

Federal ID card is due by year's end Document would serve as proof of citizenship

Mike Madden Republic Washington Bureau Jan. 18, 2006 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON - A new federal ID card that may be used like a passport will be available by the end of the year, making it easier to follow a new law requiring U.S. citizens to prove their nationality at Mexican and Canadian land border crossings.

The card, the size of a driver's license, should cost about half that of a passport, officials said Tuesday.

Businesses and border community residents had pressed for an alternative to passports to meet the ID requirement, which Congress passed as part of an effort to improve border security after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. By Jan. 1, 2008, U.S. citizens must have either a passport or the new ID card to return home from Mexico or Canada.

"We're talking about, essentially, like the kind of driver's license or other simple card identification that almost all of us carry in our wallets day in and day out," said Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

He was joined Tuesday by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in announcing the new card, which the State Department will issue.

For years, U.S. citizens have been able to cross land borders without a passport. Many do so every day as part of their routine and had expressed concern about the prospect of spending $97 to get a passport for the first time. Not to mention having to carry a document that is 3 1/2 inches by almost 5 inches.

Cost of the new card would be about $50. Once federal standards are developed for it, officials said, border states such as Arizona may be able to incorporate the card's features into driver's licenses, eliminating the need for residents to carry both.

New technology could help speed crossings for people who use the card. For example, radio frequency chips embedded in the card might let citizens scan them at a reader before arriving at a border crossing, giving inspectors time to call up their information from a computerized database and process them quickly through a checkpoint, officials said.

Any U.S. citizen could get the card whether living in a border community or not. But the card only will be for crossing land borders. Passports still will be required to enter the country by plane or boat.

The new card will be separate from the "laser visa" ID card used by Mexican citizens to cross the border for short trips, though eventually both Mexico and Canada could choose to issue their citizens a similar card that meets U.S. standards, officials said.

Border experts said the new card could help people living near the border who often cross for everyday errands, work or recreation.

"It shows that both DHS and State are being responsive to calls from border communities to create an alternative form of identification and proof of citizenship to the booklet-style passport," said Garrick Taylor, director of policy development for the Border Trade Alliance, a Phoenix-based group that represents businesses and local governments on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican line.

Distributing the card by the end of the year could be a challenge, but the government should be able to meet that deadline, said Deborah Meyers, a senior policy analyst at the non-partisan Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank.

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