IT IS regrettable but probably necessary that the open and virtually invisible border between the United States and Canada will soon become a little tougher to cross. The same goes for our border with Mexico.
Starting on the last day of 2007, Americans traveling to and from Canada and Mexico will be required to produce a passport at border checkpoints, including Detroit and Windsor. In the past, a driver's license was usually sufficient for entry into Canada, and often guards didn't even ask for that.
But 9/11 continues to change the way we live.
After the terrorist attacks, Americans tolerated long lines at airport security check-ins and other public venues as a necessary evil. It was understood that everyone and everything had to be strictly scrutinized to deter another terrorist attack.
Of course, with the passage of time, some Americans question the need. In the absence of a new crisis, many have grown complacent and grumble about security measures.
A move to better secure the notoriously porous borders between the U.S. and neighboring nations, Canada and Mexico, will bother a lot of travelers who like the ease of current border crossings. Too bad.
It may be inconvenient to Americans to produce passports for travel north or south of the border, but what's a little difficulty worth if the new requirement helps to protect the country from plotters intent on destroying it?
The policy change involves more than Canada and Mexico. Efforts by the departments of State and Homeland Security to beef up border control in this hemisphere will require U.S. travelers to the Caribbean and Central and South America to show American passports when they re-enter the country, starting next Dec. 31.
The following year the rules apply to all air and sea travel to Canada and Mexico. And by Dec. 31, 2007, the passport requirements would expand to cover all air, sea, and land border crossings with Mexico and Canada.
Is it a nuisance to go through the trouble of obtaining a passport when all most North American cross-border travelers need now is a driver's license or some other identification? Certainly. Do the times demand it? Without question.
While State Department officials are open to changing some of the new passport policy if commercial activity between the borders might be seriously hindered, the need for increased border control is evident.
After a period of public comment to consider the views of affected businesses and individuals, the border security changes required under the new intelligence reform law enacted last year will become final this fall.
The adjustment to passports where none had been needed will no doubt provoke the patience of many travelers, especially the last-minute ones.
But if the new measures improve national security, Americans must take the inconveniences in stride. Again.