EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Depending on the port of entry and the time of day, returning U.S. residents can expect to wait 40 to 50 minutes in line. And that doesn’t include any delays prior to clearing Mexican toll booths.
That’s why federal officials are pushing frequent crossers to apply for expedited access under “Trusted Traveler” programs. Those include Global Entry good for international air, land, and sea travel, and SENTRI for entry to the U.S. from Mexico and Canada.
The programs and administrative adjustments such as establishing Ready Lanes separate from regular commuter lanes at land crossings were mandates of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. WHTI came about after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
“We had a mandate, a requirement for everyone to have compliant documents to add efficiency to ports of entry and have more secure personal data. And there was a reward for that,” Acting El Paso Director of Field Operations Ray E. Provencio told a group of business leaders on Wednesday. “If you had a (compliant) document, we were able to process you more efficiently.”
The benefits of the Trusted Traveler programs are stark, said frequent border crosser Juan Acereto, a SENTRI participant with access to the Designated Commuter Lanes, also called “express lanes,” at the El Paso, Texas-Juarez, Mexico border crossings.
“It’s incredible how they have changed how you live on the border,” said Acereto, who is the Mayor of Juarez’s representative in El Paso. “You can have lunch in Juarez and it’s going to take you five minutes to cross” back into the United States.
SENTRI has a $122.50 fee and current processing wait times are 10 to 12 months. Global Entry costs $100 and has a four- to six-month waiting period. Enrollment in either program is contingent on a rigorous background check.
Provencio said the no-cost Ready Lanes also cut time from your border commute.
“We can actually process people anywhere from 15 to 22 seconds faster on the Ready Lane. We have so many people that are compliant now, but we still have some that we have to (input) their information, and that slows things down,” Provencio told attendees at the Central Business Association’s monthly luncheon at the DoubleTree Hotel.
Provencio said U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the parent agency of OFO and the U.S. Border Patrol is looking at ways to make border crossings more efficient and wants to hear from the business community.
“Trade is definitely one of our highest priorities,” he told members of the CBA.