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United States Considering Passport Reform to Fight Terrorism

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In the wake of the Ottawa shooting the United States government is considering tightening controls both between the United States and Canada, and also reforms that would make it easier to revoke the passport for suspected terrorists.

Such a move wouldn’t be without precedence. The United States tightened passport controls between Canada and itself following the September 11th terrorist attacks, arguing that it might be easier for terrorists to first infiltrate Canada, and then the United States. In response, Canada step up its passport controls for Americans entering Canada.

Among the options being considered is manning more northern security and passport control posts. Many of the northern posts are unmanned, owing to the long lax and easy travel between the United States, and the fact that the USA-Canada border is actually the longest unarmed border in the world.

Now that long-tranquil border is at risk of seeing a military build up as the United States and Canada will likely both be looking to screen more people entering and leaving the country.

Further, the United States government has long-viewed passports and visas as privileges, not rights. In the face of growing extremism across the Middle East, the government is now looking to give itself more legal authority to make it easier to deny or revoke passports and visas.

Passport Reform: Is The Government Up To The Task?

Given the government’s questionable handling of passports, visas, and other related issues in the past, it’s fair to wonder if the government is up to the task of managing over the situation. Some accuse the government of letting the wrong people in and keeping the right people out.

For example, during the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq many locals cooperated and worked with American occupation forces. Translators, local guides, and other proved invaluable to American forces and helped save countless American lives.

Predictably, the Taliban and other anti-American forces began targeted those who cooperated with the American occupation forces and their families. And just as predictably, many of those who worked with American occupation forces applied for asylum in the United States.

In the face of increased demand and the need to evacuate people quickly, the government launched a special program to help people who cooperated with American forces quickly resettle in the United States. A great idea, but as is often the case with the government bureaucracy, the implementation was less than inspiring.

Passport Reform: Interpreter Program Plagued With Inefficiency

Between 2007 and 2012 only 1,200 visas through the government’s special programs for interpreters were authorized. To put that into perspective, Canada authorized 550 visas, despite sending only 3,000 troops, while Denmark authorized 120 visas for interpreters, despite sending just 500 some troops.

The process to get through these visa programs can often take years, and while applicants are desperately trying to apply, they are often being hunted by militant forces. Unsurprising, an interpreter working for the American military is 10 times as likely to get killed as an American solder.

Effective Passport Reform Will Be Difficult

Obviously, the above case is not analogous to the current situation, still it’s hard not to wonder if the government’s efforts to increase security will simply end up keeping the wrong people out. The American government bureaucracy has proven to be increasingly ineffective at handling complex tasks and reform appears to be a long way off.

Further, while it might be difficult to illegally travel from South West and South Asia to the United States, especially without using modern means of transportations, such as aircraft, it’s far easier to travel between the United States and Canada illegally. In most places it amounts to little more than a walk through the woods are a quick boat ride across a river.

Short of militarizing the seemingly endless border between the two countries, there are few options for truly securing the border.

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