Today marks the first day of new rules being phased in by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the nation’s land borders. As I wrote about last week, from today, U.S. citizens crossing back into the United States will be required to provide certain identification to cross the border. Yesterday, a mere “oral declaration” was enough to get a citizen across the border, today — at least officially — a citizen has to provide identification. Starting next summer, citizens will be required to show passports or equivalent identification.

For now, returning citizens of the United States and Canada will have to provide a valid, government-issued ID and proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate or naturalization certificate. There are a slew of other forms of ID, including Native American IDs and certain military IDs that will also work. There’s plenty of detail on the new rules here.

So I got up at 5 a.m. this morning and headed down to the San Ysidro port of entry to check out how the new documentation rules have affected the flow of people across the world’s busiest border crossing.

Things seemed to be working pretty well, border crossers said, largely because the CBP agents are being pretty relaxed about enforcing the new requirements.

I saw dozens of people coming across the border clutching CBP leaflets that explain to them what documentation will be required from now on. Almost everyone I asked who had a leaflet said customs hadn’t had the required ID, but had been let across all the same. Things hadn’t changed much from the day before, they said.

And the flow of traffic was pretty good too, they said. The lines at the pedestrian turnstiles were long, but were moving smoothly. The wait on the road crossing was about one and a half hours, pretty standard for a Thursday morning at rush hour.

I asked a few people whether they’re planning on applying for passports or if they will be bringing their birth certificates and driving licenses every time they cross the border.

Karen Morales and her 14-year-old daughter Rosario said they’re going to apply for passports. They cross the border about once a week, said Karen, and though today they were allowed through with just their California IDs, they didn’t think things would be so easy from now on.

Yvette Fernandez, who has an 8-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl, said she crosses the border every day to take her kids to school in San Ysidro. She said she’s already applied for passports for her children, and that she’s going to apply for one herself.

“We have to get them regardless,” she said with a shrug.


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