Options to Shorten Wait Time at the Border

August 20, 2013

Numerous options and ideas to shorten the length of wait times at the busiest U.S./Mexico borders, such as Tijuana and Cd. Juarez, are being discussed as a response to the notoriously long line issues at these locations. Both countries have reported seeking a solution that not only speeds up the process but also mandates protocol and varied safety measures. Foreign companies manufacturing in Mexico are very interested in these discussions, as a solution could have a positive impact on their operations, as well.

Traffic along the U.S./Mexico border has always played an integral part in manufacturing – from the automotive, electronics and aerospace industries to giants in the medical device sector, some of the biggest names have expanded to Mexico over the past decade. The number of benefits that make Mexico attractive to companies and investors are many, including lower-cost labor, manufacturing flexibility and tax incentives. Recently, however, the most significant benefits to manufacturing in Mexico can be seen when comparing it to Asia, including time-to-market, language barriers, transportation costs, protection of intellectual property (IP) and the distance executives must travel to visit their facilities.

The concept of “bridge scanners” has been implemented as a way to promote faster travel between the U.S. and Mexico. To assist in speeding up the entry process at the crossing in Laredo, for example, Customs and Border Patrol agencies are introducing new ready lane scanners to help alleviate traffic flow, said acting Port Director Jose Uribe,“On a given year, 41 million people enter the United States on foot – not in a car, not on a train and not on a plane. So what we wanted to do is bring the technology to the pedestrians walkway to help expedite the pedestrian flow coming through.”

The new ready line cards boast radio technology that, when used in a kiosk situation, enables the C.P.B. officer to confirm biographical statistics plus photo identification and results for terrorist criminal connection searches. While the new technology doesn’t in fact replace face-to-face interaction between officers and travelers, it allows C.P.B. to focus on each individual.

Meanwhile, groups such as the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) have been looking for ways to improve wait time data and measure outcomes of trade facilitation efforts, a topic eagerly anticipated by trade stakeholders along the U.S./Mexico border. The concern revolves around whether or not Customs and Border Protection has determined what type of staffing and infrastructure improvements are needed to reduce border-crossing times for commercial traffic. Further, the Border Trade Alliance played a leading role in organizing discussions between the organizations.

In a GAO report, four specific recommendations for the next steps were suggested for the DHS: Figure out ways to take steps in helping ensure consistent implementation of existing wait time data collection methodologies, analyze the feasibility of replacing current methodologies with automated methods, document its staff allocation process and rationale and develop outcome-oriented performance measures.