Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Mexico, with a passport

NPR had a good story about new passport requirements for people crossing our northern and southern borders. The change for air travelers started Tuesday. But what struck me about this was, and it's no new news, how much this change -- which doesn't take effect for those crossing by land or sea until next year -- is going to impact people going to either Mexico or Canada for cheaper drugs. And, let's me be honest, cheap cigs and booze. I know that's why I went to Tijuana when I was 16: to smoke and drink. That and to haggle for a chess set (CHESS SET???) for my parents who let me go on this cross-country camping trip and who didn't know their rook from their pawn (neither do I, really). They would have been happy just to know I didn't drink the water. Or the tequila. And, seriously, I didn't even want to. Now, at 34, bring me some cheap tequila and cheaper water any day of the week.

So, here are the new rules, from the State Department. The changes also apply to travel to the Caribbean, Bermuda and Panama. (Though when I went to the British Virgin Islands in 2005, we practically had to sing The Star-Spangled Banner to be let back into the U.S. at St. John's and then tattoo the Pledge of Allegiance on our thigh to be let into the mainland U.S. For not being a "foreign country," the security certainly made you feel differently -- hoarse and permanently marked.)

I quote, from the State Department's Web site:
  1. Beginning January 23, 2007, ALL persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda will be required to present a valid passport, Air NEXUS card, or U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Document, or an Alien Registration Card, Form I-551, if applicable.
  2. As early as January 1, 2008, ALL persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda by land or sea (including ferries), may be required to present a valid passport or other documents as determined by the Department of Homeland Security. While recent legislative changes permit a later deadline, the Departments of State and Homeland Security are working to meet all requirements as soon as possible. Ample advance notice will be provided to enable the public to obtain passports or passport cards for land/sea entries.

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