*2019 Crossing Stats Available Visit: https://smartbordercoalition.com/blog/facts-and-figures
WAIT TIMES INTO THE U.S. San Ysidro - All Traffic: Vehicles: 0:35 Pedestrians: no delay Ready Lanes: Vehicles: 0:25 Pedestrians: no delay Sentri Lanes: Vehicles: no delay
Otay Mesa - All Traffic: Vehicles: no delay Pedestrians: no delay Ready Lanes: Vehicles: no delay Pedestrians: no delay Sentri Lanes: Vehicles: Lanes Closed Cargo Standard: Update Pending Cargo FAST: Update Pending
Tecate - All Traffic: Vehicles: Update Pending Pedestrians: Update Pending Ready Lanes: Vehicles: Update Pending Pedestrians: Update Pending Sentri Lanes: Vehicles: Update Pending
WAIT TIMES INTO MEXICO Tijuana - I-5: No Wait I-805: No Wait

COVID-19 Bulletin September 21, 2020

Category: Covid-19
The coalition urges our congressional delegations and senators to act on our
behalf to provide concrete information on the criteria used to justify
maintaining the restrictions and the thresholds we need to be under to qualify
for lifting them.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) informed us that pedestrian crossings as of the week of September 7 compared with the week of March 2 were down by 23% in San Ysidro, 35% at Otay Mesa and 40% at Tecate. Vehicle crossings at these ports decreased 38%, 18% and 59%, respectively. 93% to 94% of crossers today are either U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.

The bus portal monitor at the San Ysidro Port of Entry will be decommissioned the week of September 22nd . Only one bus will be in the lane at any given time and passengers will have to disembark. This will only last one week.

The Otay Mesa Port of Entry modernization continues. Recent work is on the cargo import lot, with export lot and pedestrian area changes coming soon. The modernization started in July and will take two years to complete.

The wait to be conditionally approved for SENTRI/Global Entry credentials is 40 weeks. Adding a vehicle takes only one week. Sentri/Global Entry enrollment centers are back on track, though with limited capacity. There are face mask requirements, and parking at the Otay Mesa port is no longer available. Please use Via de la Amistad and surrounding area for parking.

Long-time coalition participant Sally Carrillo has been named CBP Assistant Director for Communications. She reports to David Salazar, Operations Support Division Director. Part of her job will be to enhance communication channels with stakeholders and congressional representatives. She will also be the key contact for innovation ideas at our ports. Good to see you back, Sally!!

Alan Bersin, former Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Chief Diplomatic Officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Policy administration and Wilson Institute Global Fellow, told our board members that we are in a paradigm change in the way border management happens.

The pandemic’s implications on border management are similar to what we saw with security and travel after 9/11. It would be a mistake to see trade and people movement and public health in mutually exclusive terms. We must reconcile them in a unified method of seeing the border. 

Years ago, when SENTRI and Ready Lanes came about, authorities were mitigating risk by trying to “make the haystack smaller,” but with public health, “the whole haystack is suspect now.”

As agencies like CBP add public health to the border inspection inventory, there will be a need to offer tech savvy, practical options such as health passports (people who have tested positive for antibodies could be free and 7 clear to cross), infrared temperature checks, comprehensive contact tracing regimes, rapid testing, and crossing time slots for people with certain clearances on a health passport. *

In our Stakeholders virtual meeting on September 9, Eduardo Cabrera, CEO of KIN Engineering Services, presented a tolled booking system for passenger vehicles and pedestrians that relies on proven technology. Public acceptance is the most critical factor for success, followed by government authorization for some infrastructure. 

The essence is to “flatten the curve” of higher and lower levels of traffic we experience and to make them much more predictable. This will reduce wait times.

U.S. Consul General in Tijuana Sue Saarnio stated to our Board of Directors on the 17th that the Consulate has started to renew business visas, also called “TN” visas (“Trade NAFTA”) expiring less than 24 months ago. They do not require interviews. They have expedited appointments for emergencies. 

On the Tijuana River Valley water issue, the consul general said that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has formed an interagency group that also includes San Diego County, the City of San Diego, and the California State Water Board. It takes a lot of agency communication to move everything in lock step, but she is optimistic about progress.

Consul Saarnio spoke about short-term fixes. One is the construction of a temporary diversion project to take 10 million gallons per day during dry season to the South Bay International Treatment Plant. This diversion, however, must be removed during rains. The EPA is working on a memorandum of understanding to allow the treatment plant to take in this water. Funding will not be determined until after the next rainy season. 

A second short-term fix is to install a screen to stop solid waste that clogs flows at Smuggler’s Gulch. This must be done in coordination with the Border Patrol. 

Mexican Consul General Ambassador Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez addressed our board and stated that the Baja California state government should be recognized for the three new pumps at pumping station CILA (“PB CILA”) as well as for increasing and strengthening cleaning programs to remove solid waste.

On the federal side, PB CILA is now in the hands of CILA (the Mexican version of the International Boundary Water Commission), which is part of the Mexican foreign ministry. The agency is responsible for rehabilitation, operation, and maintenance. Under maintenance, construction has started on a new pretreatment section to remove all solids before sending water into the pumping system. Excavation has begun. The project will take five months. 

Results have been evident: CILA’s Director, Humberto Marengo, said that transboundary flows have diminished up to 75% since August. However, this is the best-case scenario. Let’s see what happens during rainy season. 

Pedro Romero Torres-Torija, Responsible for Northern Border Free Zone to the Mexican Government, addressed our stakeholders and proposed that the U.S.-Mexico border needs a new strategy. He advocates for the creation of a “super mega-economic region model” of all border states. 

For the López Obrador administration, there are four priority infrastructure projects for the border, and construction of the Otay Mesa East Port is one of them. Romero also wants to revive the High Level Economic Dialogue (HLED), so significant during the Peña Nieto-Obama terms. 

Anne Maricich, Acting Director of Field Operations, San Diego Field Office recognized that CBP did not scrutinize “essential travelers” enough in the March through July months. Traffic gradually grew 5-6% each week. Headquarters were concerned that too many U.S. citizens were crossing into Mexico for non-essential reasons. 

Action was taken. CBP is focusing on peak times from 9:00AM to 5:00PM, and asks that people cross only for essential activities. The 2-3 reduced lanes at our regional ports on weekends after August 21 had a major impact on increasing wait times, but they have come down substantially in September.

Maricich told our stakeholders that CBP’s primary mission is security while facilitating trade and travel, and that health screenings are not a role for officers. They will gladly work with the Centers for Disease Control and county health to aid with health. 

CBP is prepared to open Tecate more hours instead of the current single shift today) as well as PedWest, when restrictions have been lifted. 

I had a good conversation with Francisco Velasquez, engineer in charge of the eight-lane project at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. He reports that work is on schedule to finish the first week in November. In fact there will be eight lanes for northbound vehicles, one for emergency purposes, and another for returns to Mexico.

Chris Bigoness is an operational specialist for Hanson Professional Services, a consulting group located in Fort Worth, Texas that specializes in rail and power logistics. Though they have no western U.S. presence outside of Texas, they have worked with ExxonMobil, Shell, Dow, and Chevron.

They see opportunities with the Desert Line in our area. The question is whether the old Spreckels Line will ever be deployed. A lot depends on Baja Rail, MTS and the Baja California state government (www.hanson-inc.com).

We have reached out to our friend in El Paso, to get the word out for the second edition of the Border Innovation Challenge. Carlos Martinez-Vela, executive director for Pioneers 21, a non-profit incubator that works to unleash the creative and economic potential of the U.S.-Mexico border by supporting start-ups and small businesses. Carlos was a familiar face in San Diego when he was part of the Institute of the Americas 3 years ago. 

He is diligently at work in El Paso and has the vision of moving from an El Pasobased incubator to a border-wide movement. This is the kind of effort that changes the narrative of the U.S.-Mexico border (www.pioneers21.org).

I can’t think of a more relentless binational stakeholder for the improvement of the Tijuana River Valley water issue than Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina. The good news we have gotten, from the $300 million in EPA funds that our congressional delegation fought to make available, to the lawsuit vs the International Boundary and Water Commission (Imperial Beach placed a stay on it earlier this year), to making calls to local, state and federal authorities, is due in great part to the mayor’s dogged persistence. 

It is absolutely essential to get CILA (the Mexican version of the International Boundary and Water Commission) to manage the process in Tijuana and to have Rigo Laborin, the new secretary of the recently created Baja Water Secretariat (Secretaría para el Manejo, Saneamiento y Proteccion del Agua) to be involved. Another piece that could tip the balance in favor of a solution in Mexico is the North American Development Bank. Many in our region believe the bank has been too passive. 

Cargo in Tijuana has been having some unusual wait times for northbound standard trucks lately, with waits in the 3-8 hour range. The culprit seems to be then new pilot project to reduce wait times that Tijuana’s Carrier Chamber 7 (CANACAR) is working out with the City of Tijuana to have C-TPAT (Partnership against Terrorism), C-TPAT/PITA (Proyecto de Integración Tecnológica Aduanera) and PITA trucks use a different route to get to the border. Standard laden and empty trucks would use traditional routes. However, as with any pilot, kinks need to be ironed out. Many times, not all carriers follow directions. Certified cargo is already 43% of all cargo. 

We continue giving opinions to news outlets in our area. The latest topic has been the renewal of restrictions for another month. Here is our interview with ABC 10 San Diego: https://youtu.be/iUMydfS_aZA

Please join us for our November stakeholders meeting by registering on our website: https://smartbordercoalition.com/meetings/stakeholders-workingcommittee-meeting-9.

We will be sending a zoom link in two weeks. 

Gustavo De La Fuente Executive Director
gdelafuente@smartbordercoalition.com (
619) 814-1386