Today we’re all prisoners in the USA

As of today, June 1, 2009, even U.S. citizens are officially prisoners in the USA, or exiles barred from entering our own country without the government’s permission.

We are now forbidden by Federal regulations from leaving or entering the USA, anywhere, by any means — by air, by sea, or by land, to or from any other country or international waters or airspace — unless the government chooses to issue us a passport, passport card, or “enhanced” drivers license (any of which “travel documents” are now issued only with secretly and remotely-readable uniquely-numbered radio tracking beacons in the form of RFID transponder chips), or unless the Department of Homeland Security chooses to to exercise its standardless “discretion” to decide — in secret, with no way for us to know who is making the decision or on what basis — to issue a (one-time case-by-case) “waiver” of the new travel document requirements.

If you’re in the USA without such documents — even if you were born here, or are a foreigner who entered the USA legally without such documents (a Canadian, for example, who entered the USA by land yesterday when no such documents were yet required), or your document(s) have expired or have been lost or stolen — you are forbidden to leave the country unless and until you procure such a document, or unless and until the DHS gives you an exit permit in the form of a discretionary one-time waiver to leave the country — but not necessarily to come home, unless they again exercise their discretion to “grant” you another waiver.

If you are a U.S. citizen abroad without such a document (for example, if you entered Canada legally without it yesterday by land, when it wasn’t required, or again if your document(s) are expired, lost, or stolen) you are forbidden to come home unless and until you can procure a new document acceptable to the DHS, or unless and until the DHS gives you permission to come home in the form of a discretionary one-time waiver.

The DHS admits, at the top of its GetYouHome.gov propapganda website, that it might take “several weeks” to obtain such a document if you don’t have one already or if it expires or is lost or stolen.  A temporary paper drivers license without a photo, or even a standard photo licnese or state ID, won’t suffice — only an extra-fee EDL with an RFID chip, which also takes several weeks to obtain in those few states that issue them at all.  Backlogs for even “rush” passport issuance can be even longer, as we pointed out in our comments to the DHS.  It doesn’t matter if your next-of-kin is dying in Canada or Mexico.  (Suppose a relative gets sick or injured, and needs you there to make medical decisons or escort them home, but you were’t going on the trip with them, and don’t have a passport.) You can’t go unless the U.S. government  approves your papers or approves a standardless discretionary “waiver” for you to leave the U.S. — which won’t guarantee that they’ll let you come back.

This is the final stage, effective June 1, 2009, of implementation of the so-called “Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative” (WHTI).  The latest amendments to the regulations remove the last of the former general exceptions, for land travel between the USA, Canada, and Mexico, to the general rule requiring passports in the (unconsitutional but as yet untested) Federal statute at 8 U.S.C. 1185(b):

1185. Travel control of citizens and aliens

(b) Citizens

Except as otherwise provided by the President and subject to such limitations and exceptions as the President may authorize and prescribe, it shall be unlawful for any citizen of the United States to depart from or enter, or attempt to depart from or enter, the United States unless he bears a valid United States passport.

You don’t need us to tell you what’s wrong with this picture. But if you want it spelled out, you can read the comments here and here that we submitted to the DHS when they proposed the WHTI regulations imposing these ID and exit and entry permit requirments, first for airports and seaports and then for land border crossings.

We shouldn’t have needed to point out to the DHS that the WHTI travel document requirements are in flagrant violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), one of the most important human rights treaties which the U.S. has signed and ratified. Article 12 of the ICCPR guarantees that, “Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own,” and “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.”

This article of the ICCPR has been interpreted by the U.N. Human Rights Committee (and by the U.S. when it has criticized other countries such as Cuba for their exit restrictions on their citizens) as making those rights near-absolute. The WHTI document rules are also in violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the NAFTA Implemdentation Act, by imposing a barrier to Canadians and Mexicans wishing to come to the U.S. to compete for business — the requirement for a passport or enhanced drivers license (EDL) — that doesn’t apply to U.S. citizens doing business within the U.S.

And that’s not to mention the incompatibility with the U.S. Constitution of these restrictions on travel, movement, and assembly.

DHS APIS regulations already require airlines to obtain individualized prior permission from the DHS before they allow anyone (even a U.S. citizen) to enter, leave or transit the U.S. by air, and the the Secure Flight scheme will require the same for domestic flights as soon as the travel industry can build the elaborate and expensive infrastructure needed for such a real-time travel surveillance and control program.  Meanwhile, the DHS is exapnding their assertion of similar and increasingly intrusive powers of search, seizure, interrogation, and above all surveillance (monitoring and logging) and control of travel and movement within the U.S. through warrantless, suspicionless checkpoints on roads that don’t cross any border and are up to 100 miles from coasts or borders, and at airports for passengers on domestic flights.

Previous court decisions upholding government discretion in whether or not to issue passoports has been premised on the assumption that passports were useful to facitlitate travel, but were not required for travel or for the exercise of any other rights. Those decisions will, obviously, need to be revisited in light of the fact that government-issued documents are now explicitly required as a condition of the exercise of those aspects of the right to travel — the right of anyone to leave the U.S., and the right of U.S. citizens to return to our own country — that are most explicitly guaranteed by international treaties to which the U.S. is a part, and which under the U.S. Constitution are “the supreme law of the land”. The DHS is cleverly saying that at first they will only issue warnings and waivers, in most cases, to U.S. citizens seeking to enter or leave the U.S. without the newly-required travel documents.  Presumably, they hope that the new ID and permission-based travel control regime will become a well-established fait accompli before anyone is able to bring a court challenge of a DHS decision to bar someone from leaving the U.S., or barring a U.S. citizen from entering the country.

54 Responses to “Today we’re all prisoners in the USA”

  1. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative-New Era? or Police State? - Politics and Other Controversies - City-Data Forum Says:

    [...] Hemisphere Travel Initiative-New Era? or Police State? Papers, Please! ? Blog Archive ? Today we’re all prisoners in the USA Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative Does anyone have these "enhanced" drivers licenses [...]

  2. michael hall Says:

    and vat is vrong with das? We are Var dumkomph! The security of da homeland is at stake! We must have control,we must rule by fear and terror or all is lost. What is your name? Give me your number you swinehood, you will be reported and renditioned. All hail da homeland! Wave that flag high! We are the best! God bless America! WE are the greeeeaaattteesst in the wooorrrlllddd!!!!!

  3. Pete Says:

    The Enhanced Drivers Licenses have only been issued in 4 states (NY, MI, VT, WA), which makes sense because even though these licenses share data with both Canada AND Mexico, the folks up North don’t seem to see the problems in corrupt Mexican govt. on a day to day basis. The RFID chips in the license are constantly available to be read whenever the cards are not kept in their tinfoil wallets they are issued with.

  4. Justin Says:

    Stalanist Government demands dokumenti or entry to U.S. not permitted. Sigh. Guess we’re a soviet police state. What happened to the whole “Democracy” Idea?

  5. Mary Kay Jeskey Says:

    I was born in Washington DC. Why in h*ll do I have to show ID to exit and enter MY OWN COUNTRY when hundreds of illegals just waltz across the border every day?!

  6. all hail Says:

    Hail Hail Hail! This is freedom! Change ! Yes we did! Now produce your papers or be identified as a terrorist and disappear forever in “detention”
    Hail Hail Hail !

  7. V Says:

    Pete said:

    “….the folks up North don’t seem to see the problems in corrupt Mexican govt. on a day to day basis.”

    The corrupt Mexican gov’t, eh? Have YOU looked within your OWN borders to see how your own country has been looted by your own politicians and Wall Street, asshat, on a day-to-day basis? $63 trillion in the hole and a tax bill of over half a million per citizen and you have the nerve to rail on Mexico’s corruption? Geithner just returned from China on another begging tour to have their banks to fund your nation. Gnaw on that one a while. God, ignorance IS bliss.

  8. Where are your Papers?!? | Blinkinblogs Says:

    [...] nothing of this unless they are one of the many who find themselves “stuck” by this new unconstitutional, multiple treaty breaking new regulation put into practice as of today, June 1st, 2009. Well there’s some “change you can [...]

  9. Archie1954 Says:

    How do the US authorities know whether or not you have any of these augmented ID documents if you leave the US by automobile? Do they stop your car before you get to the Canadian or Mexican border and demand to see it? Do they have a right to stop you and demand “documents”? I can understand the Canadian authorities for instance requiring US passports from American citizens when visiting Canada for the simple reason that once they’re in Canada they will have to stay if the US won’t let them back in their own country.

  10. Today we’re all prisoners in the USA | Republic Broadcasting Network Says:

    [...] Online Store var addthis_pub=”otero1″; Today we’re all prisoners in the USA (Papers, Please!) [...]

  11. Today We Are All Prisoners in the USA « The Vigilant Guardian Says:

    [...] We Are All Prisoners in the USA 2009 June 2 tags: Passport by thevigilantguardian Papers, Please! June 2, [...]

  12. Granny Tasered & Arrested? - Lez Get Real Says:

    [...] here’s your new ID card America. Papers Please!, a blog chronicling the increasingly Orwellian control grid that’s being forced upon [...]

  13. Today we’re all prisoners in the USA – Papers, Please! « Truth11 Says:

    [...] Papers, Please! June 2, 2009 [...]

  14. TheRoseThorn Says:

    We are now the sheeples, doing nothing, letting our country go. Do you know what this is, “solongusa?” It’s so long USA. Our new president is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and a lot of other countries know this, but there are so many “dumbfounded” Americans. We are so stupid, we are had, had, had.

  15. “Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative” (WHTI) Says:

    [...] of the things that makes America so awesomely free is freedom of travel. I should say made America free. The huggable, lovable Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has released a policy [...]

  16. nada Says:

    people abroad won’t be stuck because they already have passports…you can’t travel abroad without them…duh….secondly…if you are a traveler, you would have the information that you would need certain identification after June 1….thank god most americans aren’t as dimwitted as the ones voicing this silly argument…and the ones that are, shame on you…wasn’t 8 years of the chenney/bush fearmongering bandwagon enough?

  17. nada Says:

    the fact that this blog is monitored speaks volumes…maybe some people should be a little pickier in their arguments…otherwise, its just hypocritical…lol…

  18. nada Says:

    freedom of travel? lmfao…even americans need passports to travel abroad…just like everyone else in every other nation on this planet…you can still get to canada with just a licence…but it will be enhanced for your safety and security…it was bushs’ gov’t that got that ball rolling due to the heavy ” terrorist ” traffic from Canada…lmfao…you can’t bitch about border safety on one hand and then decry it in the next…which is it??? I really don’t think some americans even know what they want…sad

  19. Polish Knight Says:

    good thing I moved out of amerika 9 years ago…………………………..the new word for many americans no spine……………………..show your papers to go to nascar ??????

  20. Montana Truth Movement News » Blog Archive » We’re all prisoners… in the United States of America. Says:

    [...] Read the full article here: http://papersplease.org/wp/2009/06/01/today-were-all-prisoners-in-the-usa/ [...]

  21. Some Canadian Says:

    You know, the WHTI was implemented YEARS AGO by the BUSH government. It just couldn’t be implemented OVERNIGHT because not enough people had PASSPORTS.

    Now they do, so now they can use the system they’ve been wanting to put in place. They don’t care about the people who stay IN the country, they want to know who’s smart enough to want to LEAVE the country. If you get a passport, you’re smart enough to know when to leave, but you might not realize it until its too late.

    Good thing that 5-10kms from the actual border crossings, there’s only a ditch protecting the US/CAD border. Border security is a JOKE. ANYONE who transits across a LEGAL border crossing is a sheep, and should expect SHEEPlike treatment. Otherwise, cross illegally. There’s nothing stopping YOU from doing it, now is there?…

  22. Dave johnson Says:

    Hehe….don’t you just love the way we have all been turned into prisoners in our own country? The next move would be if you don’t have permission, you can’t have sex.

    Where will all this monitoring end???

    I’m fed up, I’m moving back to the moon :-(

  23. Chris Says:

    I’ll give you a red hot tip, “DHS APIS regulations already require airlines to obtain individualized prior permission from the DHS before they allow anyone (even a U.S. citizen) to enter” being a US citizen, doesn’t preclude one from also being a terrorist or other national security threat.

  24. Steve Says:

    Shouldn’t there be a petition for this somewhere? Honestly, I’m for socialism, but in no way does that mean I’m for complete government control of an individual. Citizens should not be prisoners of their own government, unless of-course the majority of people in the US want this therein making the country a feudalistic state, through legal democratic means. Is this really what the majority of americans want? To be given the allusion of choice, the appearance of freedom, and the image of liberty? Should the United states become a country of complete oppression, war, and extremism same as it’s enemies, save only for the mask it wears called liberty? A great man once said that those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither, and i whole-heartedly agree.

  25. Richard Leining Says:

    Podgatovtye vashi dokumenti!

  26. Clay Says:

    I wonder, if for example, you were out of the country and had not paid your income tax but have no passport and thus are ineligible to return to the US. As the IRS expects to be paid it’s share regardless of where you earn it- which agency would pull rank?

    Would they arrest you, throw you in jail till your debt was paid, and then deport you till you got your passport? Or would INS prevent you from entering the country while you continued to accrue back taxes?!

  27. Mike Baldwin Says:

    The “exit permit” requirements of the USA are no different from those of Cuba or North Korea. During the late 60’s, an American 19 year old was pulled off a flight to Europe by U.S. authorities. He had a valid passport and there were none of the neo-fascist security edicts applicable today. It was the era of the Vietnam war, when many Americans fled their country traveling to Canada or Europe to escape conscription. The youth involved had to go to Federal Court to vindicate his right to travel! An estimated 50-70,000 Americans emigrated to Canada and others to Sweden and other parts of Europe, an option no longer available to resisters of the current wars of choice! Now, the only way to leave the US without permission is to sneak across the northern or southern border!

  28. Woody Says:

    Wow? Really? This isn’t even news, yet alone some conspiracy to “imprison” Americans.

    This have been YEARS in coming. This was the case for air travel 2 years ago, and by train one year ago. This law was put in place almost 8 years ago and set to phase in over time. There’s been tons of advertisements and talking about for years. The fact that you missed it baffles me. Anyone who’s been across the US boarder for the past 3 years has been warned (when exiting or entering) that passports will be required by this time. The US is one of the last countries to do this, since every other continent besides North and South America have required passports for decades. (And most countries in South America has required them for years.)

  29. SCUBA[RO] Says:

    Well this was some interesting reading , i’m from romania & i admire America a lot , moustly for it’s freedom of expression & speech, but saddly those freedoms are been taken away from the american citizens & it’s sad in my opinion :( hope more ppl wake up & smell the cofee before it’s 2 late for the “America” we all grew up 2 admire :|

  30. eyes open Says:

    They claim it’s for OUR own safety and security. Where is the protection safety and security from our own government? Who’s protecting us from the government? They use fear and propaganda to control the people but the truth is no matter how much control they take over the usa citizens… if there is someone out there who wants to do harm… they will find a way. Meanwhile we usa citizens will be without defense and waiting for our food pellet from the almighty ‘elected officials’
    Most people just go along and let the government pass laws, make rules, take away rights as long as they can watch their cable t.v, talk on facebook, send sms(all which is monitored anyway), talk on the cell phone while driving and sipping on a latte’ from starbucks and order their pizza delivery, drive their mini vans to soccer practice….they are not concerned with anything but their own little worlds. While the country they live in is slowly but surely being taken over and freedom stripped away. They go clueless…. nobody gives a crap. They have NO idea what is going on in the world yet alone the country they live in. They only go by what fox news gets paid to show. It’s all a bunch of lies. It just makes me sick. I’m afraid of the future because all people seem to care about is making a quick buck. The politicians are crooked… ugh I can’t stand it anymore. I’m done. Time to go back to dream land, I think I’ll visit facebook now…duh

  31. Polish Knight Says:

    If you don´t want to live in 1984 the solution is 1776……………………………………..

  32. Make No Laws » Blog Archive » Freedom Isn’t Free? Says:

    [...] start to lose freedoms. Are we, as Americans, free to privately communicate with each other? Are we free to travel without government restrictions? Are we free to assemble and have our voices heard? While these are some of the basic freedoms we [...]

  33. Did You Really Expect Change? : Make No Laws Says:

    [...] still think you live in a free country? Well, as of June 1 you aren’t as free to move about as you thought you were. You may now be restricted from leaving your own country if the government does not give you [...]

  34. hello Says:

    Maybe if you people understood what goes on at a border crossing you wouldn’t bitch. Ignorance is bliss. People can still leave as they please, and if you are a US citizen you will not be denied re-entry back into your country. Get your facts straight. If you are not WHTI compliant your citizenship will be verified and you will be on your way. Simple as that. I hope we can all agree that the security of our FREE country is important. This is a simple step to help secure our nation. Everyday drugs, illegals and terrorist are encountered at the borders, but you probably already knew that, but having secure documents wouldn’t help catch them. And for you folks that think it’s all foreigners that are smuggling in the drugs, think again. The “E” your kids take at parties was probably smuggled in by US citizens, because are northern friends Canada are the #1 country for producing and export “E”. So how about we just remove the borders for 1 year. as an experiment, and see what happens to our country. Travel as you please, do what ever makes you happy, why check people coming into our country.

  35. hello Says:

    And if your bitching about these changes your probably one of those ILLEGALS

  36. jo anna Says:

    This country is NOT free, no matter what you people would like to think. We can’t leave the country without the government knowing where we are. Do you know why the whole world hates us? because as Americans we think we know what it best for the whole world. We wouldn’t have been in this mess with the world trade center attacks, if America had left other countires alone. We bust up into the middle east, a place where people have been living for thousands of years, without our help. then we try to tell them that their way of living, for thousands of years, is not good enough, and we tell them that they must accept a democracy or we will kill them. These “insurgents” that you hear about on your little television are not terrorists. These insurgents are anyone,, moms, children, babies, left over in the towns and villages that our military destroy. WE DESTROYED THEIR WAY OF LIFE. People from all over the world know the truth, that WE Are the Terrorists. WE the USA are the WORLD TERRORISTS! We tell the whole world what to do, and I hope this country falls under the weight of itself.

  37. jo anna Says:

    AND for those of you who think your crap doesn’t stick, the ONLY real natives of the USA are the NATIVE AMERICANS! we took this land from them, the white man took the land from the native americans. We killed any tribe that stood in our way, which was most of them. Thats why we don’t have very many blood line native americans anymore, except out west. I was born in this country, but I am not blind. My family came on the second crossing the the mayflower. Don’t you dare think you are special just because you were born here! everyones family migrated here, ILLEGALLY THANK YOU, so we are all here Illegally. A piece of paper that says you were born here doesn’t make a difference when you know the truth. We all came here for a better way of life, the illegals too. that is why America was so great, up until the 60’s. you could come here with nothing and start a way of life that would be much better than you could had ever had anywhere else in the world. Now we are just a police state.

  38. Anonymous Says:

    @ above: i’d bitch only because i’d rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than the inconveniences of attending to small a degree of it

  39. loki Says:

    I say; It is no longer time for talk, but a time for action.

  40. allan Says:

    Prisoner is strong language, but considering other limitations put on citizens, perhaps we could say: imperial subjects have now become slaves.

  41. mike Says:

    perhaps you can help me,i cannot get a passport, but i want to leave the US permantly. If possible i would like to drive from AZ to ecuador,colombia or venezuela where my wife has family. I two know about the checkpoints on 86 and 19 s. of tucson, i live in tucson. these checkpoints are in fact are just one part of a much larger conspiracy to control americans,and i for 1 am getting out while the gettings good,if possible. so any help or advice you can give would be greatly appreiciated,thanks,mike

  42. Papers, Please! » Blog Archive » Rumors of a new administrator for the TSA Says:

    [...] surveillnace and control system with a default of “No”, and the international APIS and WHTI rules for international [...]

  43. Papers, Please! » Blog Archive » Secure Flight: Frequently Asked Questions Says:

    [...] for international air travelers under the APIS regulations, and for land border crossings under the WHTI rules), with a default of, [...]

  44. Dick Says:

    I drove to Mexico one year ago, I went back to the border to get another visa in May. Nobody said a word about this law going into effect. I do not have a passport and am now stuck in Mexico. The new law has forced me to become a criminal. I cannot enter the USA, I cannot stay in Mexico without a new visa. So therefor I am going to be an illegal immigrant in Mexico. If I go back to the USA and am allowed entry, I cannot go back to my wife and home in Mexico. I definitely WILL NOT trust The State Department to grant me a visa after I pay off my debt (student loan) that keeps me from getting a passport. Maybe I will just go to Chiapas and live with the Zapatistas. Then DHS will have a REAL reason to worry.

  45. Welcome to Your New Prison, Americans! | bkdunn.com Says:

    [...] More here. [...]

  46. Chris in Munich Says:

    I only just found this website today, and I’ve been wondering what’s been going on. I was born in the US, but am a British citizen. A few years ago, the entry requirements for the US allowed you to enter on a foreign passport even if you were born there. Now, they’re saying that everybody who was born in the US or is a US citizen must use a US passport to enter or leave the US. Now I see what law has brought these changes. It’s sad to see the US continually becoming a police state.

  47. Terry Says:

    Technology like the RFID is a very good way of making identification verification automated and easier. However, on the issue of constraints and inconvenience at the start of the implementation is a common issue in almost every changes in policies but should not be expected to linger than a few days or weeks. Moreover, the issue if rights should not be curtailed int he light of security and safety for all citizens and visitors of the states.

  48. Papers, Please! » Blog Archive » Should the IRS control international travel by US citizens? Says:

    [...] 2009, Federal law and regulations have forbidden US citizens from entering or leaving the US, even by land, without a passport. So if the proposal now in Congress is approved by the House and [...]

  49. Papers, Please! » Blog Archive » Cuba makes it easier to leave the country, while the US makes it harder Says:

    [...] from the government. Any attempt to leave the US, even by land, without a passport, has been criminalized, without any recognition of passport issuance as a right. The State Department, in its claimed [...]

  50. Gulag America: The Increasing Difficulty of Leaving the USA | Thought Crime Radio Says:

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  51. They are trying to call the spread of communism democracy | Prophecy of Noah Says:

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  52. Papers, Please! » Blog Archive » U.S. Embassy in Sana’a seizing U.S. citizens’ passports Says:

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  53. StuckinAlaska Says:

    No Passport offices in Alaska, just a very few post offices that are only open certain (odd) times. It will cost about a thousand dollars in gas to get back to lower 48 plus the plus passport fees and extortion ‘expedited’ fee. Could not believe they charge extra for doing their job in a reasonable amount of time. Feels like a third world country where you have to pay everyone off to get things done. I definitely am a prisoner in my own state.

  54. Papers, Please! » Blog Archive » U.S. citizen sues the State Department for a passport Says:

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