SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — The head of the Smart Border Coalition says inexperienced U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working the gates at ports of entry in San Diego are to blame for long border commutes.
Joaquin Luken is the executive director of the group, which seeks solutions to improve movement and travel through the ports of entry in the San Diego-Tijuana binational region.
“They could be officers who have worked at an airport, maritime port or another port of entry who aren’t familiar with the dynamics we have here,” said Luken. “They don’t know a lot about the border crossings that take place on a daily basis — there’s been a reshuffling of officers to help border patrol agents who are processing asylum-seekers.”
Luken believes this is resulting in slower crossing times that are affecting people who travel between Mexico and the U.S. every day.
“At Otay Mesa, in particular, there have been waits of four to six hours on weekends,” he said. “If you have officers who aren’t used to working in this area, with this type of crossings, you’re likely to have these issues.”
He went on to say the current closure of PedWest, a second pedestrian crossing at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, is also due to the reassignment of agents who are now processing asylum-seekers instead of border commuters.
When CBP was approached by Border Report about concerns shared by the Smart Border Coalition in regard to the “inexperienced officers” working and possibly slowing things down at ports of entry in the San Diego area, CBP issued the following response:
CBP in the San Diego Field Office is committed to facilitating legitimate travel safely, securely, and efficiently through the ports of entry. CBP is continually assessing its resources and looking at this on a consistent basis. Our resources of course must take into account CBP’s other vital priorities, including our mission to protect public safety and national security, interdict the flow of narcotics and contraband, and facilitate lawful trade and travel. CBP’s highest priority is the safety and security of the American people, the traveling public, CBP personnel and the communities in which we serve.
CBP wants to remind the traveling public of the following steps travelers can take to try to help expedite processing for entry into the US:
- Choose off-peak hours for their travel times: 4-9 a.m. Monday-Friday, and 2 p.m.-12 a.m. Saturday-Sunday.
- Line up in the proper lanes (SENTRI, Ready Lane, and All Traffic). Traffic at our local ports of entry is segmented into three different lanes and travelers should be prepared to have the correct documentation for the corresponding lane.
- Have all the required travel documents for the country you are visiting, as well as identification for re-entry into the United States. Passports are required for air travel. Visit www.travel.state.gov for country-specific information.
- Declare everything you bring from abroad, even if you bought it in a duty-free shop.
Luken added that this issue, with the inexperienced CBP officers working ports of entry, is increasing commute times all along the southern border.