Border guards report smooth transition

BLAINE – On the day that stricter identification rules went into effect for U.S. citizens returning from Canada and Mexico, traffic slogged as usual through Washington state’s largest border crossing at Blaine.

Monday marked the first day U.S residents were required to show a passport or one of several high-tech identifications when returning from Canada or Mexico.

At the Peace Arch crossing in Blaine, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported a compliance rate of more than 90 percent, according to their surveys.

The smooth transition in Blaine was reflected nationwide. No unusual backups were reported at major crossings on the northern and southern borders surveyed by The Associated Press.

Previously, U.S. citizens could re-enter the country with various types of identification. Now a passport, passport card or special secure driver’s license are among a handful of accepted IDs.

The new rule, which also affects sea crossings, is the final implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, a security measure drawn up from recommendations from the 9/11 Commission.

It’s part of a gradual boost in security along the northern border that has featured new rules for air and land travel, millions of dollars in upgrades and the hiring of hundreds more customs officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents.

“Traffic is flowing efficiently as we anticipated. It seems passengers are very compliant,” said Michele James, director of field operations for the northern border that covers Washington state.

Washington was the first state to develop its own special license that meets federal requirements.