Seventy Percent of Americans Can't Leave the Country


Do you feel safer today? Let's hope so, since you're certainly less free to travel about the Northern Hemisphere. Beginning just after midnight, every American returning from Canada, Mexico, and various island paradises now have to flash a U.S. passport to get back in the country. For the 70 percent of citizens who don't have passports, that means a minimum four to six weeks waiting time (and probably more, given the new filing rush) to legally escape the national boundaries. Better hope you weren't birthed by a midwife and have a funny-sounding surname!

No one informed Betancourt that his American citizenship was in question before – not in all the presidential elections he's voted in, not when he served in the Marines and not when he first became an emergency medical technician a decade ago. His father, a U.S. citizen, also served in the Marines.

"It's like a slap in the face," Betancourt said. "It doesn't change the way I feel or act, but I'm trying to do something as American as apple pie and go on vacation, and it feels like I've got the rug pulled out from under me."

Well, at least our country's top political leaders are totally aware of this grimly important trade of liberty for security.

Bill Clinton and George W. Bush admitted yesterday they had no idea the U.S. was implementing a new rule Monday that would require Canadians and Americans to have passports to cross the border.

The former presidents were caught off guard during a 90-minute joint appearance in Toronto when moderator Frank McKenna, the former Canadian ambassador to the U.S., spoke about how Canadians feel slighted by the new rule.

"I'll be frank with you Frank, I don't know about the passport issue," Bush told the crowd of 6,000.

"I thought we were making good progress on using a driver's licence to cross the border. What happened to the E-Z card?"

Clinton said he'd only heard about the passport requirement a day earlier, adding that in all likelihood most Americans were completely unaware of it as well. […]

"I promise you, you have got my attention with this, so I'm going back home I'll see if there is anything else I can do," he said to cheers from the audience.

Yet another indication that our previous two presidents would have been better off reading Reason.