SAN DIEGO – California residents near the Mexican border are worried about the possible negative impact of U.S. Customs and Border Protection plans to erect inspection booths to check Mexico-bound traffic.
People who cross daily through the San Ysidro Port of Entry, which separates San Diego from Tijuana, Mexico, fear that such a measure will repeat for travelers going north to south the same traffic jams that have long snarled south-to-north traffic so much that it can take up to four hours to cross the border into the United States.
Chris Maston, CBP supervisor for ports of entry on the Mexican border, told Efe on Tuesday that while most of the agency’s efforts focus on goods and travelers coming into the United States from Mexico, they also have to keep an eye on traffic going south.
“We also have a responsibility to step up surveillance on people leaving the country in order to shrink the flow of weapons and illicit money used in Mexico’s drug wars,” he said.
Close to 102,000 people cross through San Ysidro daily in both directions, including 25,000 pedestrians.
The $577 million modernization project, scheduled to be finished by 2016, seeks to improve security, operational efficiency and protection for travelers, according to the General Services Administration.
Thanks to this plan, lanes of traffic going north will be increased to as many as 34, each with two inspection booths instead of just one as at present.
The goal is to cut waiting time to an average of 30 minutes, according to the authorities, though this intended time-saving measure could be offset when Mexicans, who work and study in the United States, return and have to pass through the 12 inspection booths that are planned.
Up to now, when CBP inspects vehicles leaving the country it is done by officers on foot between lanes, deciding which vehicles to check, which already takes a considerable amount of time.
David Flores, an architect and specialist on the subject, told Efe Tuesday that they have worked to try and determine how the local community’s health will be affected by these construction plans.
“It has been proved that higher asthma rates among children are caused by the current south-to-north traffic, which will be reduced when construction is finished and waiting time is cut to 30 minutes.”
However, he said the situation will get worse if U.S. authorities impose inspections on south-bound traffic, which will then be followed by Mexican authorities making their own checkups.
“What Tijuana has suffered for decades will become a reality for the United States. We’re particularly concerned about children and pedestrians,” Flores said. EFE