A reader posted a question recently about that new passport requirement for U.S. (and Canadian) citizens crossing the border from Mexico: What happens if you show up without your passport? I thought it was a good a question because it got me wondering about possible repercussions. …Is it like when you get a speeding ticket? Are we talking jail time? Handcuffs?
I passed on the message to Vince Bond, a spokesman over at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and he provided this helpful response, which he allowed me to re-publish here:
“Federal officers will not deny entry to any valid US citizen. Travelers may experience delays while CBP officers possibly refer them to secondary inspection so that their identity and admissibility can be positively determined.
Our officers have enforcement discretion to make the determination whether to allow a non-compliant traveler to proceed into the United States , with a written warning to obtain the proper travel documents, or to refer them to the secondary inspection area. The warning document explains that the traveler is not compliant with the requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) and explains what documents are acceptable and how to obtain them. Lots of information about this process is on www.getyouhome.gov .
We continue to encourage US citizens who cross the Canadian or Mexican land border to apply for and obtain a passport book, passport card, Sentri/Nexus trusted traveler card, or Enhanced Drivers License from participating states to facilitate their travel. I want to add that the overwhelming majority of traveling US citizens crossing the border already are WHTI compliant. Mexican travelers are unaffected by WHTI.”
Thanks to Vince for setting us straight. Here is a screen shot from a file he sent me about the notice you might get if you show up at the border without your passport: