Monday, June 16, 2014

List the sovereign states that can issue Western Hemisphere Travel Initiate-compliant cards. Whoops, you missed one.

When I last renewed my passport, I had the opportunity to not only obtain a traditional passport book, but also to obtain a special card that I could use for selected international travel. I can't use it to board a plane to Finland, but I can use it to drive a car into Canada or Mexico.

It turns out that these cards are part of something called the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. I happened to go to the U.S. Department of State to obtain my WHTI-compliant card.

But certain people wouldn't go to the U.S. Department of State. They would instead go to...the Seneca Nation.

"The Seneca Nation?" you may asked. "Aren't they like Indians or Native Americans or something? Why don't they go to the U.S. Department of State?"

Well, as its name implies, the Seneca Nation is a nation. Or as they explain it:

The relationship between the Seneca Nation and the United States is one of a sovereign government to another sovereign government. This principle has shaped the entire history of dealings between the federal government, the states, and the tribes. The United States government entered into treaties with tribal governments that exchanged tribal lands for federal protection and services. These treaties still form the basis of much of the Tribal-Federal relationship.

In that spirit, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reached an agreement with the Seneca Nation that allowed the Seneca Nation to issue its own WHTI-compliant cards, referred to as "Enhanced Tribal Cards." These can be used for travel between the U.S., Canada, and certain other countries, just like my Department of State-issued card can.

[DISCLOSURE: The cards themselves will be produced by MorphoTrust, a sister company of my employer.]

Speaking for myself personally, I often forget that when people are talking about Federal, state, and local governments, we need to remember the tribal governments also. After all, there are 566 of them, managing nations that are as large as 16 million acres (the Navajo Nation). And nations can be national - the Navajo Nation, for example, uses Daylight Saving Time, unlike Arizona. (And yes, this means that the Navajos are more advanced than the rest of Arizona...)
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