Northbound border traffic
“April is the cruelest month…”, begins the first line of T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land,” perhaps more aptly retitled “The Wait Land” for the border region. This April, federal budgetary squabbles and sequestration cuts will combine to create prolonged border crossing waits along California’s international border with Mexico, making this April perhaps the most cruel of recent Aprils for those living astraddle the “Cristal Frontera,” as Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes dubbed the line.
April 21 of that month is the day of demarcation, when measures that reportedly will gravely affect border crossing times at all California Border land ports will kick in.
Wait times of between 4-and-a-half to 5 hours can be expected at any time of the day according to an article in Frontera, published Wednesday. These wait-time figures were announced by James Clark, president of the Coalicion de la Frontera Inteligente San Diego-Tijuana, who said the extended wait-times were a direct result of budget cuts being vigorously implemented on that date in an effort to save many by cutting federal programs. The ostensible savings were being achieved by direct cuts to the number of border personnel, the number of man-hours worked by staff, diminution of miscellaneous border services, plus obligatory “furloughs” (unpaid) for Customs and Border Protection officials, who must take their mandatory furloughs of 14 days between the 21st of April and the 30th of September, ipso facto, during the summer months, when vacation travel amongst border region denizens is most prevalent.
Concern was expressed for Sentri cardholders who had been previously assured that services applying to them would not be altered. However, many of border officials in line for furloughs were personnel who facilitated the flow of the holders of Sentri cards.
On a less grim note, last week it was announced that those who needed to renew their Sentri cards, which have a five-year active span from the moment of issue, could do so on line via the internet.
According to the CBP (Customs and Border Protection), there are currently 158,000 active Sentri card-holders, who ply the border crossing stations of San Ysidro and Otay Mesa with their preferred status.
In the totality of crossings at Otay, 21% are expedited with the use of a Sentri card; at San Ysidro 39% of drivers use the Sentri lanes, thus saving themselves and other non-card holders significant amounts of “wait time,” said Customs and Border Protection agency spokesperson, Jacqueline Wasiluk.
The option for an online renewal, sans personal interview, applies only to those cardholders who have no change of address or change in critical legal status.