Indian border ID solution in limbo

TULALIP — Months after a federal law began requiring passports or enhanced identification cards to cross into the U.S. from Canada and Mexico, American Indians are still struggling to find a solution that won’t infringe on their tribal sovereignty.

According to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, people who want to enter the U.S. at the Peace Arch checkpoint and other border crossings along the Canadian and Mexican lines were required, beginning June 1, to carry electronically enhanced identification.

That’s a problem for local American Indians, who say they have a right to visit their relatives, attend ceremonies or even go on vacation across the border in Canada with nothing more than their tribal identification cards.

Federal officials said they would allow tribal governments to create electronically enhanced tribal identification cards, but few tribes have taken that step, in part because of the cost. The Tulalip Tribes initially expressed interest in designing an enhanced ID system that would host information for various Pacific Northwest tribes. The tribal government has since backed away from that plan.

The federal Department of Homeland Security told tribal leaders that border officials will be flexible in allowing Indians to use the tribal ID cards they currently carry for a “modest but reasonable transition period,” Tulalip policy analyst Theresa Sheldon told The Herald in June.

It’s still not clear how long that “reasonable transition period” will last.

Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422,

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