By Alberto Garcia
The Customs and Border Protections (CBP) has made changes at the border that will increase northbound crossing wait times in an effort to discourage non-essential travel between the US and Mexico.
“Non-essential travelers should expect more disruption to their travel, including increased wait times and the potential for secondary inspection,” a CBP spokesperson said about the recent changes.
Restrictions put into place during the COVID-19 pandemic limit border crossings to “essential” travel for work and medical treatment, but a recent survey of 100,000 crossers conducted by CBP revealed that about 60% of those were not essential travelers. The travel restrictions only allow U.S. citizens and legal residents to cross the border and non-essential travel for tourism, recreation, gambling, or cultural activities are banned.
The new changes at the border included closing the West Pedestrian crossing at San Ysidro, as well as limiting crossing lanes and pushing more cars into secondary inspections. The changes will also affect the border crossings at Otay Mesa and Calexico West.
“We’re committed to continuing to facilitate cross border movement of essential travelers,” CBP spokesman Nate Peeters said. “These measures are only intended to address non-essential travel with the ultimate goal of the further inhibiting the cross-border spread of COVID-19.”
In recent days, wait times to cross from Mexico into San Diego have been as long as seven hours and could increase to more than 10 hours on weekends. Some cars have overheated during the long waits, run out of gas, and a few drivers abandoned their cars and walked away.
On Sunday, August 23, an 89 year-old woman was found unconscious in her car while waiting in a line at the San Ysidro Port of Entry that was more than six hours long. She was pronounced dead later that day.
Many essential workers in San Diego live in Mexico and cross the border everyday. S0me have complained that the long wait times are sometimes longer than their work shifts once they cross the border.
Daniel Gustavo Chavez, who lives near downtown Tijuana and works with a construction company in San Diego, crosses the border six days a week and now has to get to the border at 3am to make it to work on time.
“It took me almost 5 hours to cross on Monday, and I got to work late,” Chavez said. “If Customs is trying to make it better they actually made it worse for us essential workers.”