Passport plan should be sent packing

What others say

Posted: Friday, April 15, 2005

A plan by the Department of Homeland

Security to require all persons entering the United States from Canada to have passports is bad news for Alaska.

Alaskans must go through Canada in order to travel by road to or from the continental United States. As many Alaska residents do not currently hold passports — especially young Alaskans such as college students — this new regulation will place a special burden on the state's citizens. Most Americans will not be forced to get a passport under this new regulation unless they want to travel abroad. Almost all Alaskans will.

Consider the plight of someone living in a place like Haines, a Southeast community connected to the road system by a single highway that runs through the Yukon. Anyone wanting to drive the 650 miles from Haines to Fairbanks will be required to obtain a passport to do so.

The restrictions these new regulations will place on land-based travel are not all that the new rules will bring. Cruise ship passengers traveling from Seattle to Alaska also will now be required to obtain a passport from the government. Although someone planning a long cruise certainly should have enough time to acquire the proper documentation, the rules still place special conditions on these visitors.

It's impossible to say how much of an adverse affect the new rules will have on the state's tourism industry, but it's hard to imagine how they could help.

The list of reasons why U.S. citizens need to move freely between Alaska and Canada is endless and often even amusing. Imagine forcing mushers in the annual Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race — run between Fairbanks and Whitehorse — to show a passport as their teams mush across the border. It's a good bet some of the more vocal mushers in the race certainly would have "something to declare."

Alaska's border with Canada is 1,538 miles long and traverses some of the most remote country on the planet. Anyone wishing to slip into Alaska from Canada can do so at any time, regardless of how much paperwork they're carrying.

Requiring that Alaska residents have proper documentation to move freely between our state and Canada — and by extension, the rest of the United States — is an idea with no merit that should be opposed vocally by state residents, as well as our representatives in Washington, D.C.

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