7 GOP senators slam State Dept for 'slow and inefficient policy' on passports

7 GOP senators slam State Dept for 'slow and inefficient policy' on passports
© Greg Nash

Seven GOP senators are calling on the State Department to continue renewing passports despite travel advisories and lockdowns put in place due to the pandemic. 

The letter, addressed to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS praises British ban on China's Huawei after pressure campaign Overnight Defense: Panel approves 4.6B bill addressing border wall funds, Confederate name changes | Navy ship fire rages on Trump says he has no plans to speak with Chinese president MORE, was spearheaded by Republican Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Tulsa to resume search for race massacre mass graves next week GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday MORE (Okla.), who last week called for the department to resume passport applications after learning it paused the application process for 1.6 million Americans when it stopped taking new applications March 19.

The Republican lawmakers, Sens. Lankford, John CornynJohn CornynMJ Hegar wins Democratic battle to challenge John Cornyn The Hill's Campaign Report: Key races take shape in Alabama, Texas, Maine 5 key races to watch on Tuesday MORE (Texas), David Perdue (Ga.), Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerWNBA dedicating opening weekend to Black Lives Matter The Hill's Campaign Report: Is Georgia reaching a tipping point? Democrats hope for tidal moment in Georgia with two Senate seats in play MORE (Ga.), Kevin CramerKevin John CramerGOP senators voice confidence over uphill Senate battle GOP skeptical of polling on Trump Senate passes sanctions bill targeting China over Hong Kong law MORE (N.D.), John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick The Hill's Coronavirus Report: San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus Artistic Director Tim Seelig says choirs are dangerous; Pence says, 'We have saved lives' 7 GOP senators slam State Dept for 'slow and inefficient policy' on passports MORE (Ark.) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyIllinois House Republican leader won't attend GOP convention in Florida: 'It's not going to be a safe environment' Judge seeks copy of order commuting Roger Stone sentence Top Mueller prosecutor: 'We could have done more' in Russia investigation MORE (Utah), called the policy "unacceptable,” "inadequate" and “slow and inefficient.”

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“We hope you will take steps to correct and improve this plan to ensure the Department is not partially responsible for stifling international commerce at a time when our nation is eager to resume economic activity,” the lawmakers wrote.

On the State Department’s website, the agency claims people who submitted applications before operations were limited on March 19 will experience “significant delays of several months.”

Only people who can prove they are facing a “life-or-death emergency” can apply for a passport under the current travel advisories in place by the department and public health officials. Applicants must show proof of “serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in your immediate family” to be considered.

In a statement to ABC News, the agency said that the sensitive nature of the passport application process makes it infeasible to process them remotely. The department plans to begin reopening their offices in phases, with the first phase still not underway. 

"Processing passport applications requires us to review sensitive documents, such as birth certificates and other personal records, and to physically print and mail passport books and cards back to applicants. This means that our staff are not able to process passport applications from home," the agency told ABC news. 

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In a statement to The Hill, the agency said that the sensitive nature of the passport application process makes them infeasible to process them remotely. The department plans to begin reopening their offices in phases. However, the  first phase has yet to take place. 

“Passport applications must be adjudicated in our facilities to protect customers’ personally identifiable information and ensure the integrity of the application process. We maintain the highest standards of security and privacy protection for our customers, and must secure sensitive documents like birth certificates and naturalization certificates in our offices,” a State Department spokesperson told The Hill. 

Passports applications must also be processed in-person because staff must physically print and mail passport books and cards to applicants. The agency’s offices across the country will open on different dates depending on the status of the pandemic where they are located.

Updated 5:07 p.m.