Friday, March 19, 2010

Long Lines on the Border

Posted By on Fri, Mar 19, 2010 at 2:33 PM

The Nogales International (which, like the Weekly, is owned by Wick Communications) reports that officials, business owners and residents on both sides of the border are fuming because of long lines at border checkpoints:

The line, more than 200 people deep, stretched back from the Dennis DeConcini pedestrian border crossing, winding through an open-air corridor and out into the narrow lanes of pharmacies, dental offices and curio shops of downtown Nogales, Sonora.

As the sun set on the barely moving queue, a pre-teen girl waiting with her family shifted back and forth on flip-flop-clad feet in an effort to keep warm. A few steps away, a well-groomed, 30-something man took out a cell phone and dialed his girlfriend on the Arizona side of the border, assuring her that he’d be across soon for their Saturday night date.

“What’s the holdup?” someone asked a security guard monitoring the line.

“There’s only one agent working up there,” the guard answered, eliciting groans and utterances from those within earshot. But there were few options other than to wait; the pedestrian-only crossing at Morley Avenue, two blocks east, had already closed for the day, and Nogales’ third crossing point, Mariposa, was a mile-and-a-half walk away.

In all, it would take more than an hour for this section of the line to pass through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) turnstiles into the United States.

Lines like this one on March 6 have become a familiar annoyance for residents of Ambos Nogales who regularly walk back and forth between Arizona and Sonora for legitimate purposes like shopping, dining, and visiting family and friends. Business leaders on both sides of the border say the pedestrian queues are interfering with shopping flows and discouraging tourists, who are already frightened by news reports of violence along the border.

The long lines are not a result of greater demand: CBP statistics show that pedestrian crossings at Nogales’ three ports of entry held relatively steady throughout 2009 before spiking predictably during the Christmas season and falling in January and February. Instead, customs and immigration officials say that increased security concerns and responsibilities at the ports are stretching resources thin. Over the past year, for example, agents have had to step up inspections of Mexico-bound foot and vehicle traffic while also maintaining their vigilance over U.S.-bound travel.

Local officials and civic leaders say the solution is simple: CBP needs to add more agents to the Nogales ports.

Read the rest here.

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