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Too Old for a Passport?

Cindy Loose

The Department of Homeland Security is learning what parents already know: There is truth in the old adage that if you give an inch, someone will want a mile.

Last week the department said it would propose to exempt U.S. and Canadian children from the plan to require passports for all land and sea border crossings. Under current plans, by next year everyone will need a passport for any land or sea border crossing, just as they now need one for any border crossings by air. Under the modified plan, which still needs to go through a vetting process that includes a public comment period, U.S. and Canadian kids ages 15 and under could cross U.S. and Canadian borders with just a birth certificate and parental permission, as would older kids if they were part of a group.

Now, the National Tour Association has decided the more lenient rule should also apply to seniors. Turns out the Student & Youth Travel Association was instrumental in nudging DHS towards being more lenient toward students, and the NTA reminded regulators that they had joined the SYTA in original appeals. Seniors on fixed budgets, they argue, need the break.

Maybe they could just use their AARP cards in place of a passport.

Anyone want to bet on when the ACLU will decide to sue DHS for age discriminiation?

By Cindy Loose |  February 28, 2007; 10:37 AM ET  | Category:  Cindy Loose
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Seniors always want breaks. I'm sick of how many benefits flow to seniors and not to kids. If they can afford to travel, they can pay for a passport. It's about $100 for 10 years use -- that's $10 a year.

Besides, terrorists are more likely to be over 65 than under 15.

Posted by: Arlington, VA | February 28, 2007 11:13 AM

My grandfather died nearly 24 years ago at age 71. When my grandmother died I inherited his passport file. It seems that for several years in the late 1970s he attempted to get a passport.

He'd been born in rural Georgia in 1911, but a courthouse fire destroyed the records, so he had to find an alternate way to prove he'd been born. He had school records from the 1910's and 20's that showed his birthdate. He had verification from the FBI that showed they had checked his birthdate when they hired him as an agent in the 1930's. He had a family Bible record that showed his birthdate. Then INS requested a copy of his parents' marriage license, because they wanted a record of his mother's maiden name. He sent a copy of the marriage certificate. But that wasn't good enough, it seemed. They informed my grandfather that the problem with the marriage certificate was that it didn't show his birth date! He wrote again to explain that the reason no information about him was listed on the marriage certificate was that he hadn't been born at the time the certificate was issued!

At one point the correspondence shows that he reminded INS that he had been trying so long to get a passport that my grandmother had been out of the country twice and was planning another trip. He finally had to give up without getting a passport.

Given that many of today's seniors were born in times when birth records were kept on paper, and there are probably others whose records were destroyed by fire, I definitely support the efforts to allow seniors access to Canada without a passport. I would disagree with the previous poster that a senior is more likely to be a terrorist than a youth.

Posted by: my grandfather's story | February 28, 2007 11:33 AM

"Anyone want to bet on when the ACLU will decide to sue DHS for age discriminiation?"

As well they should. If you make a law regarding entry into the US, it should apply to EVERYBODY.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 28, 2007 11:51 AM

Seniors are already getting lots of breaks, and a lot of them stem from a time when they were among society's poor and very fixed-income. For probably the majority of senior citizens, this is no longer the case (in fact some could be argued to be more wealthy than the general population due to large payouts from spousal life insurance, etc.) and they're still enjoying the breaks. While this is a nice thing to do, it's no longer a terribly practical one and does not serve a societal need as these programs and discounts once did.

While it is a nice gesture, I'm not sure it's entirely a practical one. If you need the security of requiring a passport to go in or out, I would think you would need it from *everyone*, else someone would attempt to do something really stupid and get away with it, by implementing a child or senior citizen.

Than again, very few governments are ever terribly proactive and even the (delayed) reactions tend to be rather slow once they're implemented.

Posted by: A thought or three | February 28, 2007 11:59 AM

It shouldn't be the ACLU who sues - its argument would probably have to be that it's unfair to require those of us who aren't seniors to have passports, when seniors are exempt from the requirement. It should be a group primarily concerned with protecting the country from terrorists. If cost is an issue for seniors, there should be a fee waiver / exemption for them. But in these days of potential terror attacks from seemingly "normal-looking" people, everyone should have a passport.

Posted by: Mark in Irvine | February 28, 2007 12:29 PM

I don't know about your relatives, but my grandmother has outlived her money. I know of many others who are in similar positions. This is not meant as a statement about whether seniors should or shouldn't be exempt from the passport requirement to get between the US and Canada (although a terrorist would still have to have a passport to get into the US or Canada before attempting to cross the US-Canada border). It is simply to say that I think some of you are using a fairly broad brush when you discount the money woes of a significant segment of the elderly population.

Posted by: rich seniors | February 28, 2007 1:11 PM

Kids under 16
1. Don't have money
2. Have to get their passports replaced when they turn 18
3. Are less likely to have traveled in the past than someone who actually has a past.
4. They generally travel on their parents' whim, not their own direction.

Why should seniors not require passports?

Posted by: aleks | February 28, 2007 1:27 PM

I'm a retired military senior. I carry my military ID card which has all essential information (and then some) encrypted in the card.
Why does it seem such a stretch to allow me (and others like me) to have a passport waiver?

Posted by: charles thorne | February 28, 2007 1:30 PM

This is silly; as aleks noted, there are legitimate reasons to exempt young children from passport requirements in some circumstances that simply don't apply to any other group of people as a whole. This isn't and shouldn't be about money.

And for the poster who had a story about her grandfather's application, I don't know how things have changed since he applied, but the State Dept. (which issues passports, not INS) does have procedures about how to deal with such situations. I have a friend who works in passports who issues passports to people with this type of problem all the time.

Posted by: MECM | February 28, 2007 3:41 PM

I just don't understand why seniors want an exemption. Once you have created your first passport, it is very easy to renew - just send in your old one with new pictures. Yes, if you come from a time when birth certificates were hard to come by, I can see it being a pain in the butt to get your first passport, but otherwise, it's just not a big deal.

Besides, why wouldn't you WANT a passport when you travel? It is so much easier to travel internationally - even in Canada & Mexico - with a passport than without one.

If it's a matter of cost the senior lobby needs to come out and say so. Because if you can afford to take the vacation or travel, you can afford to pay for your passport. They are not that expensive in the grand scheme of things.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | February 28, 2007 5:03 PM

Why SHOULD seniors be excepted from passport requirements? Are they not adults? Children under sixteen are not legal entities, and are under the control (theoretically) of their parents or other guardian. Any senior who is in favor of this is just out to save a little money; border security is the furthest thing from their minds. It's all about their pocketbooks.

Posted by: mikeedee | February 28, 2007 10:26 PM

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