A Yuma County official blasted the long wait times to cross the San Luis I Port of Entry from Mexico into the United States.
Supervisor Tony Reyes brought up the wait times during a board meeting after he spent four-and-a-half hours waiting to cross back to the U.S. in a line that stretched for 16 blocks.
During an update by Alejandro Figueroa, the county’s economic development and intergovernmental affairs director, Reyes asked whether Homeland Security had explained “why the lines are getting so big and so long and so slow?”
He noted that at times only one lane is open for the general public, one SENTRI Lane and one Ready Lane, when there are more lanes that could be used to process travelers more quickly.
The Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) lane is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers.
Ready Lanes are for both vehicle passengers and pedestrians traveling with eligible travel cards.
“These main lines used to last two hours, four hours. I’ve seen that people stay there for seven hours,” Reyes said.
He clarified that it’s not just in San Luis but also the Algodones/Andrade port that has slowed down considerably.
“Really, the question is, have there been any statements about this at all?” he asked. “Now, there may be a reason that they haven’t made us aware of, like they may be pulling some people to help with the (migrant) flow.”
He noted that the supervisors used to get notices from the former port director of expected closures or situations that might impact border operations.
“That sort of gave us a forewarning about what’s going to happen. In this case, they actually close lanes and they close lanes for what absolutely doesn’t seem to be a reason,” Reyes said. “I mean, you get through the line and you see the border crossing guards going over the cars, but they limit that to one lane.”
In reference to a $308 million port expansion project currently underway, Reyes said his concern is that “it won’t matter if you have 16 lanes in the future if you only open three or four. It’s irrelevant if you have eight lanes that you can operate right now and you only open three and it’s not a matter of staffing or some reason for it. Then what it leads you to believe is that they’ll do whatever they want to, when they want to, and how they want to. That’s not a good way to serve the public, as far as I’m concerned …
“If there was a reason given, if the reason given was that they have a higher number and they’re going to process people, I’d feel a lot better because I knew there was something going on, but there is no significant change in the number. That basically points to a situation that is worse so therefore is a reaction to it. And again, it may be just a lack of information coming out of the port of entry that we don’t really know.”
Figueroa pointed out that the port just went through a leadership change “so communication is very limited as to why that’s happening right now.”
John Schwamm, the former port of entry, retired in December. Replacement candidates are now being interviewed, Figueroa said.
Reyes asked Figueroa to reestablish communication between the county and the port of entry, so officials are better able to respond to questions from constituents.
“We have to answer those questions all the time. Why are the lines so long? And we have no particular reason to give to people. I don’t know that there’s anything happening in there, I’m not aware of it,” Reyes said.
It’s not the first time that the supervisors objected to the long wait times. They have previously criticized the closure of lanes, saying that long lines and shutdowns not only impact returning U.S. citizens but are also causing Mexican legal crossers, who like to shop, eat at restaurants and do business in the U.S., to stay away, detrimentally impacting the local economy.
In other border news, Figueroa shared that the number of people waiting for asylum at the port on the Mexican side has increased. According to Mexican authorities, 180 families are waiting on the border, some of them camping right on the international fence.
And, he added, 20% of those asylum seekers are San Luis Rio Colorado residents.
“People are noticing more local residents asking for asylum at the San Luis I Port of Entry, claiming fear of their life because of the violence happening in our neighboring community,” Figueroa said.
“There’s a significant number that have been seeking asylum who live just here across the border,” Vice Chairman Jonathan Lines added.
In addition, Figueroa noted that President Joe Biden signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act that authorizes a record $886 billion in annual military spending. The bill included a measure from Arizona senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema that raises overtime pay for Border Patrol agents amid a record migrant surge at the Southwest border.
Also, Sinema and Kelly co-sponsored the Southwest Border Regional Commission Reauthorization Act, which is legislation providing “meaningful” funding opportunities for Arizona border county communities, including organizations that help manage the ongoing border crisis, as does Yuma County’s Regional Center for Border Health.
The legislation reauthorizes and increases funding available to the Southwest Border Regional Commission, which boosts economic development, modernizes infrastructure and improves quality of life and communities along the southern border, Figueroa said.
The Southwest Border Regional Commission was created in the 2008 Farm Bill to strengthen economic opportunity in the southern border regions of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.
By MARA KNAUB SUN STAFF WRITER www.yumasun.com
2024-01-17 11:30:00 , www.yumasun.com – Vivrr Local Results in news of type article