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Weekend Traffic Poses Test at U.S.-Canada Border

CATHY DUCHAMP: I'm Cathy Duchamp at the Peace Arch border crossing in Washington state. This is the third busiest crossing on the northern border with Canada. More than two million people cross here every year. But this morning, with the new ID requirements in effect, there are hardly any lines.

Mr. MIKE BOLES(ph) (Customs Security Officer): Good morning, sir. How are you today?

Unidentified Man #1: Good.

Mr. BOLES: Where are we going.

Unidentified Man #1: I'm going to Seattle to catch a plane today.

Mr. BOLES: Great. Can I get your ID, please?

DUCHAMP: Mike Boles is a Customs security officer on booth duty.

Mr. BOLES: If we do find somebody that's noncompliant, it's going to be somebody that's not a frequent crosser, that's probably from a place that, you know, they haven't heard yet.

DUCHAMP: You know, the people who cross only a few times a year, Canadians coming south for bargain shopping, Americans coming home from a ski vacation at Whistler Mountain, oh, and maybe journalists.

Mr. BOLES: We've been waiting for somebody that didn't have what they were required to have. This is great.

DUCHAMP: Out of 18 people I witnessed coming through, the only one to slow down the line was a Canadian television journalist. He had only a driver's license, and that's not scannable. Border agent Boles had to type his information in a computer manually, which took at least a couple minutes longer. This delay could become a real concern on weekends when the wait already averages two hours, and the number of people without proper ID could mushroom.

Canadian traveler Chris Oldinger(ph) has another concern. He references the inscription on the Peace Arch here. It reads, children of a common mother dwelling together in unity. Oldinger says it doesn't feel that way anymore with the proof of citizenship requirement.

Mr. CHRIS OLDINGER (Traveler): Well, we're neighbors. We're just going across the border, right? You know, I understand that if it's someone coming overseas, then it's required, but not for a neighbor. That's what I think.

DUCHAMP: The Department of Homeland Security is doing its best to pump up the P.R. on the ID requirements. Maybe this new jingle will make travelers feel better.

(Soundbite of information ad)

Unidentified Woman #1: (Singing) If you're going across the border into the USA…

DUCHAMP: Or maybe not.

For NPR News, I'm Cathy Duchamp in Blaine, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Cathy Duchamp