National

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The Brownsville Herald, Brad Doherty/AP
Lines of vehicles entering the U.S. from Mexico at the Gateway International Bridge, in
Brownsville,Texas.

Can Mexico's Commerce Withstand New Passport Rules?

June 01, 2009 07:00 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
Rules requiring passports for travelers moving between the U.S., Canada and Mexico have some merchants and tourism professionals concerned that business will drop off.

Travelers Scramble for New Documents

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Almost eight years after 9/11, new passport requirements aimed at tightening U.S. borders take effect today. Until now, travelers needed only a driver's license and "an oral declaration of citizenship" to enter the U.S. from Mexico or Canada, and vice versa, according to the Associated Press.

Some travelers have expressed confidence that the new rules will heighten safety, but reactions from business owners in Mexico have been apprehensive. Jesus Gonzalez, who frequently crosses into Mexico for medical care, told the AP, "Businesses (in Mexico) are going to hurt a tad bit and I feel sorry for them."
In the U.S., the new passport rule has resulted in some longer lines.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported on the effects in Southern California. At the Midway Drive post office, for example, lines for "walk-in passport applicants" have lengthened in the past few weeks. Post office passport acceptance clerk Susana Valenton told the Union-Tribune, "By around 8:45, we have a long line already."

Despite the concerns and inconveniences that come with the new rule, travelers have had plenty of advance notice from the tourism industry.

"There has been a lot of awareness, I think," Angelika Villagrana, executive director of public policy at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, told the Union-Tribune.

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Reaction: Merchants concerned

Merchants in Mexico who rely on revenue from Americans are worried that the new passport requirements could deter tourists from visiting, according to the North County Times of Escondido, Calif.

Rosarito Beach mayor Hugo Torres told the North County Times, "I think this is going to affect tourism very much."

Rosarito is an easily accessible and highly trafficked resort area on the Pacific Ocean, just 20 miles from the U.S. border. Businesses in Mexico are already up against the weak U.S. economy, a drug war that is "ongoing and increasingly bloody," and lengthy waits to cross the border.

Background: Enhanced New York state driver's licenses

In September 2008, New York state unveiled a new driver's license that also acts as a passport, and is intended to heighten border security. The enhanced driver's licenses will also be accepted as a form of identification for land or sea travel between the United States and Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Despite being less expensive than a passport, the new license costs $80, and some state lawmakers were concerned that families would not be able to afford them. The new system was considered necessary for national security.

Reference: Passport information

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