Last week, my vacationing family was stopped at not one, but two, internal checkpoints along Interstate 8 in Arizona and California and questioned about our citizenship. I couldn't help but think of a passage from the late historian Paul Fussell's Abroad: British Literary Travelling Between the Wars, describing the now almost unthinkable ease and anonymity with which people crossed national borders just a century ago: "[B]efore 1915 His Majesty's Government did not require a passport for departure, nor did any European state require one for admittance except the two notoriously backward and neurotic countries of Russia and the Ottoman Empire." How far we've come from effortless transit across borders to interrogations by armed, sweaty men along domestic highways.Read the rest here.
With the exception of brief periods during the Civil War and the First World War, passports have only been required of Americans for (most) foreign travel since 1941. As recently as eight years ago, I drove to and from a house rental in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, with no identification beyond my driver's license. Since 2009, though, a passport or similar document has been required to cross back into the United States from anywhere. After that second Border Patrol citizenship checkpoint in the desert, my wife suggested that we start carrying our seven-year-old son's passport domestically, in case we have to prove to some overbearing official that the kid is who we claim and has a right to be wherever he is. No law yet requires us to carry legal documents for Tony, but toting it seems a better idea than arguing with goons along a desert road.