Although the 9/11 terrorist attack happened ten years ago, its ashes still haunt how local governments do business. As a result, Santa Barbara residents seeking passports and passport photographs will no longer be able to get them at the county clerk recorder’s office, as they have the past 19 years, and will now have obtain such documentation at the post office. The new changes go into effect February 22, which, coincidentally, is George Washington’s birthday.
In 2005, Congress passed the Real Identity Act in an effort to keep would-be terrorists from securing phony identification documents. Provisions of that bill prevent the same local agency that provided birth certificates from issuing passports. “By doing both, the thinking is we have the potential to create a false,” said Mary Rose Bryson, the clerk recorder. “Now the State Department will send out inspectors to all the county clerk recorders offices to make sure we’re not co-mingling these functions.” Bryson said, to date, she knows of no instance in which an individual has managed to secure both documents by false pretenses. She explained the law took so long to implement because some members of Congress representing states bordering Canada—where there’s a large volume of traffic both ways—objected. The delay was built in to accommodate them. She said the revenue derived from issuing passports and passport photos issued is sufficient to sustain two-and-half full time positions. “It’s a big deal,” she said.
Bryson said the new regulations require that both parents and all children be present when childrens’ passports are issued. For babies, she said, that can be tricky. “You have to put them in a bed and take the photograph from above. That’s going to be hard to do in a post office. But it’s hard to do in a CVS, and they do it too.” Bryson said that her office had already put the kibosh on one of the forms of identity theft most commonly depicted in movies; where the character assumes the identity of a person roughly the same age who died as a child. She explained that her office has cross referenced deaths with existing birth certificates. “When we find that someone has died, we pull their birth certificate and stamp the word ‘Deceased’ on it.” She said the people most likely to steal the identity of another are siblings. “They already look alike,” she said. “If you’re in a jam or in trouble with the law, sometimes it’s easier to pretend to be your own brother or sister than deal with the consequences.”
For those seeking a complete list of government offices where passports are issued, contact www.travel.state.gov.