EL CENTRO â€“ On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved a letter of support for Senate Bill 397 that would permit enhanced driverâ€™s licenses issued by the California DMV but would comply with the Department of Homeland Securityâ€™s Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).
The Imperial County has three ports of entry with Mexico and the cross traffic Â adds a significant economic boost to the Valley.Â US Customs recently created a new program to shorten wait times for private vehicles returning to the US from Mexico. Ease of transition from one country to the other adds to both sideâ€™s economy.
This program, known as READY Lane, is available to cars where each passenger possesses a WHTI compliant ID.Â Most of these IDâ€™s are available to non-US citizens because the government issues immigration permits and visas which are mostly WHTI compliant.
For US citizens living in the Imperial County, a US passport card is essentially the only WHTI compliant ID available.
This Senate Bill by Senator Ben Hueso, will make it possible for US citizens in Imperial County who donâ€™t have passports, or donâ€™t care to apply for a passport, an opportunity to go to the DMV and for an extra fee, have their driverâ€™s license or ID card reissued as an enhanced driverâ€™s license card that is WHTI compliant. Those holding enhanced IDâ€™s will be able to use the shorter lines making their border crossing faster and more convenient.
The board voted 5-0 , supporting SB 397 to put California on a par with Washington, New York, Michigan and Vermont who already have WHTI programs.