EL CENTRO – On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved a letter of support for Senate Bill 397 that would permit enhanced driver’s licenses issued by the California DMV but would comply with the Department of Homeland Security’s Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).
The Imperial County has three ports of entry with Mexico and the cross traffic adds a significant economic boost to the Valley. 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 side’s economy.
This program, known as READY Lane, is available to cars where each passenger possesses a WHTI compliant ID. Most of these ID’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 don’t have passports, or don’t care to apply for a passport, an opportunity to go to the DMV and for an extra fee, have their driver’s license or ID card reissued as an enhanced driver’s license card that is WHTI compliant. Those holding enhanced ID’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.