Secretary of State stops in East Tawas

John Morris // Published May 7, 2008 in Iosco County News-Herald
Michigan’s 41st Secretary of State said she hopes to begin the application process this fall for an optional enhanced driver’s license allowing state residents to go across United States borders without a passport.

Terri Lynn Land said last week the optional enhanced driver’s license will offer Michigan residents a more convenient and affordable option than a passport for cross-border travel. Land visited the Iosco County News-Herald office Tuesday, April 29.

Land said the enhanced driver’s license, which will cost an additional $15, will allow Michigan residents to cross into Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean without a passport. Land said, under the state legislation, the enhanced licenses would be voluntary and only available to Michigan residents who are also U.S. citizens.

She said there will be four requirements to get an enhanced license - a Social Security number, proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate or passport, a document with your full name such as a birth certificate and a document that shows proof of residency such as a utility bill or a bank statement.

Land proposed the creation of a driver’s license that could also be used as a passport in June 2005 as a common-sense way for border states to meet requirements of the federal Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) while protecting their economic interests. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security eventually embraced the concept and has granted pilot projects for enhanced licenses to Washington, Vermont, Arizona, and New York.

Under WHTI, all travelers, including U.S. citizens, will need to produce a passport or similar secure document to enter the country by land as early as June 1, 2009.

Land said due to the relative expense and difficulty of obtaining a passport - they cost $100 and take four to six weeks to receive from the U.S. State Department - it is expected that the requirement would discourage many people from traveling across the border for business and tourism.

Land said the enhanced license “will also more smoothly merge federal border ID requirements with trade and tourism between Michigan and Canada, which averages more than a billion dollars a week.”

She said the State of Washington did the same type of program and that about 170,000 people applied for the enhanced license in that state.

Land said, however, she didn’t support the recent effort for a national identification card.

“I believe in states’ rights,” she said. “They wanted to have a national data base and control who could have a driver’s license. Like other states, I said no. I want to decide who gets a driver’s license.”

Land said the enhanced licensed will be safeguarded from fraud and any personal information contained on them.

Land also said she plans to continue to build upon the Department of State’s technology base and expand user-friendly programs that would increase the number of Internet use for state sponsored services.

For example, she talked about the Internet as a means of getting new license tags for vehicles. The new tags will arrive by mail. There are also kiosks around the state where persons can get vehicle licence tags at any time which are printed out at each site.