Lack Of Funding Hampers Enhanced Tribal ID Card Development

In order to comply with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative and the Real ID Act, travelers seeking entry into Canada from the United States must present either a current passport or a security-enhanced ID card by June 1, 2009. The federal government has provided millions of dollars to state governments to develop the chip-embedded ID cards and supporting database systems – but no money has been provided to Tribes to equip their members with the necessary cards and support.

Many Tribal members prefer to utilize ID cards issued by their Tribal governments when traveling internationally, to reflect the sovereignty of their Tribes. Despite the 1794 Jay Treaty that guarantees indigenous peoples the right to move freely between Canada and the U.S., if Tribal governments can’t issue security-enhanced ID cards by June 1, Tribal members attempting to enter Canada with standard IDs will likely be turned back at the border. Tulalip Tribal leaders have agreed to develop ID cards for several Northwest Tribes, along with a database that would link to computers at the border, but it appears unlikely the systems will be on-line in time. “We’re racing the clock right now,” said Theresa Sheldon, a Tulalip policy analyst who has worked on the border security issue for several years. “The only way we would be able to make it by the deadline is if they gave us an extension.”

The National Congress of American Indians has filed a request with the federal government for a $20 million grant to help Tribes create their own enhanced IDs. However, even if that request is approved, the money will likely not become available to Tribes until 2010.

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