Monday, April 25, 2011
New State Dept. Proposal Could Limit U.S. Passports
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE US STATE DEPARTMENT:
I was aghast to hear there is a possibility your office will require irrelevant personal data from U.S. passport applicants via the proposed new government Form DS-5513. The entire concept strikes me as an excuse to start a U.S. citizen future tracking system for all those applying for U.S. Passports. It is without question a bad, bad idea with major, adverse implications. How could your agency restrict or deny the right to travel freely outside our country to any American citizens who decide NOT to release such confidential information to you?
Why would your office need lifetime employment history details, information about a passport applicant's siblings, religion, the mother's address prior to an applicant's birth, etc. before granting a citizen of our country a rightful passport? The scrutiny of overseas-born persons applying to become naturalized American citizens is one thing, but forcing a law-abiding U.S. citizen to provide irrelevant data on a passport application is unreasonable. Such a practice reminds me almost of the bygone Iron Curtain era. Travel is one of our most precious freedoms as citizens, and passports are our right.
Future U.S. passport applicants are applying for passports in order to TRAVEL out of our country. Their American passport applications have nothing to do with the top secret security clearance paperwork regularly required for sensitive government positions. Our country already has the western world's lowest rate of passport holders. If your office creates additional hurdles for U.S. passport applicants by implementing Form DS-5513, I am convinced it would be an improper use of your power as our federal passport agency.
Hindering international tourism is not the U.S. State Department's role. Imagine the likely impact on our own nation's commerce if other governments worldwide followed suit with their own version of DS-5513. What would be the economic effect on inbound U.S. tourism if, for example, European or Asian travelers were required to release such confidential information to their own passport offices before their documents were processed? As someone employed in the vital travel and tourism industry here in the U.S.A., I strongly doubt any of my stateside industry colleagues would support your proposal for Form DS-5513.
I urge you to throw out this ill-conceived proposal and focus your attentions on your real mission. Restricting our travel options and breaching U.S. citizens' confidentiality are out of line, and quite frankly, I am shocked to learn you are even considering Form DS-5513....If governments around the world choose to place restrictions on which travelers can enter their countries freely, that is the prerogative of those governments. It is neither the State Department's responsibility nor right to impede an honest, law-abiding U.S. citizen's travel on the planet we share.
Tour guide, travel agent, U.S. voter, and long-time traveler
***ATTENTION U.S. Readers: April 25th (today) is the last day to voice your thoughts on passport Form DS-5513. Send an email now to: GarciaAA@state.gov