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January 26, 2006
Thursday AM

Wednesday, during a hearing held by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) expressed his concern about the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) proposed by the Department of Homeland

Listen to Senator
Stevens' Comments.
Security and the Department of State.  Under the WHTI, all citizens of the United States, Canada, and Mexico must have a passport or other accepted secure documentation that establishes the bearer's identity and nationality in order to enter and re-enter the United States.  The WHTI requirements will go into effect on January 1, 2008. 
Stevens expressed concern about the impact these requirements will have on Alaskans as they travel to and from the Lower-48.  He told Mr. Jim Williams, director of the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology Program, "If you go from Hawaii to the West Coast you don't have to go through a foreign country.  If you go from Alaska by land to the South-48 you have to drive through Canada.  If you go through on a ferry you have to go through Canada.  I think special attention ought to be paid to the people who live on the Northern tier because this is really going to cause a lot of problems."
Stevens expressed additional concern that the needs of Alaska's rural residents are not being addressed by the suggested policies.  He noted that the closest passport agency to Alaska is in Seattle, which will present a significant hardship for rural residents.  "We are going to have to find some way to get people from Shishmaref or Nome to somewhere in Seattle to get a card that will enable them to travel down there The circumstances in rural Alaska are much different than anywhere else I don't think it is fair to require this of us when we do not have a passport office in our state," remarked Stevens.
Stevens concluded by urging the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State to work with the Canadian government and arrive at an equitable solution.  "I think you have got to work it out with Canada.  The same documents ought to be acceptable on both sides of the border for permanent residents I hope that you can find some way to stabilize this and get an international agreement on travel with Canada to Alaska."


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Ketchikan, Alaska