Opinion: Speeding up CaliBaja border crossings would help the economy and the environment

well is executive director of the San Ysidro Improvement Corp. – San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce and Business Improvement District. He lives in the Vista Pacifica neighborhood of South San Diego.

Our region has been a ground of union of people sharing a culture throughout history – from our land of Kumeyaay to our new Spanish political roots to the split into two countries. Today, we are a binational metropolis, with interdependent and intertwined economies. Workers and production lines are shared on both sides of the border. Families live on both sides. And the children play on one side and go to school on the other. As recently described by the University of San Diego Ahlers Center for International Business, CaliBaja is home to 7 million people, has a regional gross domestic product of nearly $250 billion, and cross-border trade flows estimated at $70 billion. , thus creating the largest integrated economy. area along the US-Mexico border.

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But none of the above is functional, let alone sustainable, without the ability for us to cross the border efficiently.

Long waits at borders even affect the air we breathe. According to Time magazine’s Justin Worland, border delays result in the release of 457 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each day, which is equivalent to the annual emissions of 100 passenger vehicles. Air pollutants in San Ysidro are 10 times higher than in communities just 10 miles north. Our border policies, including border enforcement, translate into co-responsibility and require the application of principles of social equity.

The San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce estimates that with border crossing times of no more than 45 minutes per day – and at any given time – for general vehicles and 15 minutes for pedestrians, we could breathe new life into our savings. local areas, decrease our incidence of asthma-type ailments and live up to the potential of CaliBaja. We are losing over $3.3 billion in sales and over 80,000 jobs due to border wait times at Southern California ports of entry. To help achieve the U.S. government’s economic and environmental goals at our borders, we simply need tangible commitments at the border, around the border, and in Washington, D.C.

At our ports, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) must use true “risk assessment.” According to the Association of San Diego Governments, 97% of people who cross between California and Baja California cross three or more times a week. While “recording” 100% of the passers-by, the review should focus on the 3% we don’t know. Also, fashions matter. Pedestrians pose far fewer safety risks than commercial trucks, but pedestrian wait times are often among the longest experienced by commuters. Why don’t we implement the same document readers used in pedestrian lanes and offer pre-loaded information before pedestrian interviews? With no vehicle to inspect and no x-ray machines to help carry luggage, pedestrian waiting times should still be negligible.

Time targets for officer interaction in the main lanes are a must, as are full utilization of facilities – including double-stack kiosks, reopening of the PedWest pedestrian border crossing, segmented lanes for elderly visitors and people with disabilities, and the facilitation of cyclists, specifically in San Ysidro. Additional crossing options – including a dedicated pedestrian bridge between the San Diego Trolley and a Baja California light rail system, and a ferry crossing between Tijuana and Imperial Beach – are also required.

Effective “chain of custody” procedures for vehicles that are sent for secondary inspection must be in place. How many times have we seen officers run a lengthy primary inspection and then drive a vehicle to a secondary inspection while cars piled into a queue? With over 50,000 vehicles passing through each day, this clumsy procedure adds blocks of minutes in a domino effect to following vehicles.

Around our ports, the approaches to checkpoints must be made more welcoming. Sprawling concrete K-rails, barbed wire and stacked combat gear do not paint a dignified image for our visitors or returning citizens. In the case of San Ysidro, we are the gateway to San Diego, the eighth largest city in the United States, for visitors from around the world. We have to look and feel like it.

CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus must prioritize reducing border wait times by integrating wait time metrics and public engagement into executive performance reviews. This prioritization is the only way that time efficiency will become a concern for the actual agent in the booth. “Customer service” would also be implemented as a standard operating procedure.

Travelers from England to the United States are greeted by CBP and Transportation Security Administration officers with “Welcome home!” People who frequently cross the lands (which we know and depend on) are greeted with “Where are you going?” What are you bringing?”

The presidential administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama invested $741 million in the largest land border reconfiguration project in US history. We now have a responsibility to ensure the use and effectiveness of this investment, lest the San Ysidro land port of entry become the biggest waste of taxpayers’ money in US history. United.

After 20 months of border restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, federal investments in staffing, efficiency and surrounding infrastructure at our land ports of entry are a necessity to restore the economic and physical health of our community – and to ensure that recent investments meet future needs as intended.

This essay is in the print edition of The San Diego Union-Tribune on March 25, 2022, with the title, The US-Mexico border needs these investments now

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