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TEXAS SENATE PASSES S.B. 2027 TO INITIATE SECURE DRIVER'S LICENSE PILOT PROGRAM
May 3, 2007

"Our border is the most vibrant region of the hemisphere with over 68 million legal crossings a year. With passport requirements coming soon, we need to make secure, fast crossings work for all who live and work in our region. S.B. 2027 is modeled on Washington States' bill that puts passport and citizen information in driver's licenses so Border residents need only one document to cross and return."

Written by Senator Eliot Shapleigh, www.shapleigh.org

AUSTIN –  For the number of border residents whose lives cross the US-Mexico border regularly, the Texas Senate made safe, fast, secure crossing one step closer to reality.

Yesterday, the Texas Senate passed S.B. 2027, authored by Senator Shapleigh, in a 30 to 1 vote. The bill now continues to the House.

S.B. 2027 authorizes the Texas Department of Public Safety to work with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to develop an enhanced driver's license pilot project on the U.S.-Mexico border.

"Our border is the most vibrant region of the hemisphere with over 68 million legal crossings a year. With passport requirements coming soon, we need to make secure, fast crossings work for all who live and work in our region," said Senator Shapleigh.

The pilot project is modeled on pilot program legislation recently enacted in Washington State.  The new licenses would include proof of citizenship and other information that can easily be scanned at border ports of entry.

In Washington State, the new licenses include radio frequency ID chips and other advanced security features. They are not only less vulnerable to forgery but also, at about $40, less expensive than a $97 passport.

Texas border business leaders have expressed strong support for S.B. 2027 since new federal mandates may require, as early as 2008, that U.S. border crossers to have a passport.

“We received word that [Dept. of Homeland Security] Secretary Chertoff is pushing ahead to require any U.S. citizen returning from Mexico to have a passport.  For a family of 4 that means $400,” Mike Allen, Vice Chairman of the Texas Border Coalition, told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“This could be very serious for our state and trade with Mexico. We are receiving word from the governor’s office of Nuevo Leon as well as Chihuahua that this would definitely be harmful for business in Mexico."

"[W]e commend Senator Shapleigh in the Texas Legislature for his proactive efforts to create mechanisms that facilitate business and goodwill, rather than some federal initiatives that wedge barricades against them,” added Rio Grande Valley Partnership President and CEO Bill Summers.

Secretary Chertoff gave his endorsement of the Washington State pilot project at a news conference in March. "I'm quite sure other states that want to use the same technology and the same approach will be welcome to do so," he told the Associated Press.  "The whole idea here is giving a series of alternatives, as long as they meet the same basic standards."

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