U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is marking the first-year anniversary of the successful implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) at all land and sea ports of entry on June 1, 2009. The move was designed to enhance border security and facilitate lawful cross-border travel between the United States and Canada and Mexico. WHTI has had a positive impact on specific apprehensions, CBP says, with false claims apprehensions and intercepted fraudulent documents up.
“WHTI is the first fully implemented 9/11 Commission border recommendation designed to enhance security while affording facilitation to legitimate border crossers through the use of technology,” said CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin. “We have already seen a number of cases where new document requirements have led to significant positive results at increasing security at ports of entry.”
WHTI is the joint plan by the State Department and Department of Homeland Security that implemented a key 9/11 Commission recommendation to establish document requirements for travelers entering the United States who were previously exempt, including citizens of the U.S., Canada and Bermuda.
WHTI requires U.S. and Canadian citizens, age 16 and older, to present a valid, acceptable travel document that denotes both identity and citizenship when entering the U.S. by land or sea. CBP’s preliminary analyses indicate that the implementation has had no negative impact on wait times at the land border ports of entry and the national compliance rate has been steady at 95 percent.
WHTI has had a positive impact on specific apprehensions, CBP says. False claims to U.S. citizenship apprehensions rose 25 percent on the southern border following WHTI implementation on June 1, 2009. The rate of fraudulent documents intercepted at the land border increased by 12 percent compared to the rate in 2008.
Under WHTI, radio frequency identification (RFID) technology and license plate readers were deployed, on-time and on-budget, to the top 39 high volume land ports of entry covering approximately 95 percent of land border traffic. These facilitative technologies are playing an integral role in improving efficiencies.
RFID technology facilitates travel across the land border by allowing traveler information to be pre-positioned for the CBP officer as a vehicle approaches primary inspection. Processing travelers with RFID documents is 60 percent faster than processing documents that are not RFID-enabled.
More than 5 million WHTI-compliant, RFID-enabled documents have been issued. CBP continues to strongly encourage travelers to obtain RFID-enabled travel document to expedite their entry and to help make the borders more efficient.
The WHTI RFID technology and license plate readers have also been installed at U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints and will soon be installed at CBP outbound operations sites.