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Monday, April 18, 2005
Chuck Schumer went through the state this weekend, blasting the plan to require passports for entry into the United States from Canada.

He says we should look to something more convenient -- like a "retina-scan" or a "border pass" like the ones they use on the Mexican-American border.

Schumer says the passport requirement will hurt the Western New York economy and is "inconvenient."

First of all, let me say that I do not hate Chuck Schumer. I think he is about as good a Democratic senator as we can expect in this state. But Chuck's biggest problem -- and his biggest asset -- is that he is a media whore. He can't help himself. So once a month, like clockwork, he makes his way across the state with the issue of the day (month).

Yes, a passport will be inconvenient. But not as inconvenient and economically painful as a terrorist attack.

We were supposed to have learned our lesson on 9/11, right? Well one of the lessons was that we need to do a better job keeping bad people on the other side of our border.

Unfortunately, many of the things that have to be done for security reasons are extremely inconvenient and often come with economic costs. The very existence of the border patrol/ins/customs at the Peace Bridge is inconvenient.

It seems to me that the cracker-jack system we have in place, whereby an INS or customs agent asks: "Citizenship?" and "Did you bring anything back with you today?" is not exactly all that exacting. Add to that the extreme difficulty of preventing people from getting in with fraudulent forms of identification (particularly from foreign countries) and you can see it for what it is: a sieve.

My thought upon hearing that they were going to ask people to have a passport was: what took them so long?

Schumer's "ideas" are actually pretty funny when you think about it. Instead of using the very simple and significantly more secure passport system that already exists, we should create a database of people's retinas and use a retina scanner when they come in. Now, maybe it is me, but it seems to me that this system would be far more expensive and far more "inconvenient" to create from scratch than the system we have in place now.

The "border pass" is all well and good, but it isn't fundamentally different from a passport in terms of what you would have to do to get it (fill out paperwork and wait). In terms of security, it doesn't even come close. We should be very hesitant before modeling our new northern border security plan after anything currently happening on our southern border.

The border pass idea reminds me of the "sheiff's card" we used to have for alcohol ID here in New York State. Anyone who has ever drank illegally using a super-duper secure "sheriff's card" raise your hand! I see at least 5.

I can't help but wonder why it is that the only sacrifices for security that Schumer seems capable of supporting are those that involve raising my taxes.

I should clarify: I am all for the retina scan or any totally secure way to keep bad guys from getting into this country. My point is that it fails Schumer's "convenience" test even more spectacularly.
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