Homeland Security Makes Traveling Harder . . . Again

Nothing like some misguided Homeland Security policy to make you feel all warm and cozy. This time, we’ve got two policies, one that will impact foreign visitors and the other that could theoretically impact anyone.

First, let’s start with the rule that will affect non-US citizens. There are 27 countries that participate in the visa waiver program which allows people to visit the US without a visa. When they travel now, they can just grab their passports, hop on the plane, and fill out immigration forms enroute. That will change by January 12 when anyone traveling on a visa waiver will have to register electronically at least three days prior to traveling. There will, fortunately, be exemptions for people who book at the last minute, but what about people who forget? Will they be turned away?

I suppose the good news is that you only have to register once every two years, but that means the US will be keeping more info about you electronically. The more changes we make, the more we discourage people from visiting. Is it really not enough to have paperwork filled out on the flight? I mean, it’s a great option to offer the ability to register online beforehand for those who prefer, but making it mandatory just adds one more hurdle for foreign visitors to deal with as they plan their trips.

And now, let’s turn to the other news. Beginning June 21, you will be required to show a photo ID when you travel. Wait, didn’t you have to do that before? Nope, you didn’t. If you didn’t want to use a photo ID, you could still travel but you had to go through more rigorous screening. As you can imagine, this didn’t happen that often, but it did happen.

The rule says that exceptions will be made for people who have lost their ID, but really, who is to make the determination that it’s specifically been lost and you’re not just trying to avoid showing ID? The officer? Yikes. Here’s what the TSA has to say on the subject. I have to disagree with them. Why do we need to know exactly who is traveling? Anyone who willing travels without an ID is going to face such increased scrutiny that they would be idiots to try and do something sinister that way. Anyone really trying to cause trouble would just get a fake ID of some sort in order to blend it.

As fare as I’m concerned, as long as ID-less passengers don’t have anything dangerous on them, they should be allowed to fly. What do you think?

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