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Heightened security clogs Mexicali Port of Entry

every vehicle checked

September 14, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Motorists waited longer than usual to enter Mexico through the Mexicali Port of Entry on Thursday.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent said his agency's Mexican counterparts are checking each and every vehicle crossing into Mexico instead of using the usual random inspection system with which most border-crossers are familiar.

The extra precaution taken by Mexican authorities has increased the average wait for those going into Mexicali but the time spent in line here is still far shorter than the time spent in line at the border in other parts of the country.

On Thursday The Associated Press reported waits of up to 10 hours for truckers going from Detroit into Canada and eight hours for cars in San Ysidro heading to Tijuana.

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Some idling in the Mexicali line on Thursday didn't mind waiting longer than usual for safety's sake, but others questioned the practicality of the effort.

Businessman Jonel Cera said he doesn't think the extra security effort by Mexican authorities is needed.

He's thankful he lives in Mexicali instead of in Tijuana, where the wait is even worse.

"Oh, that's a nightmare," he said regarding the wait to cross the border there.

Cera, who owns a business in Corona, has crossed into Mexico at the Mexicali port for 16 years and said, "I've never seen it worse. They shouldn't check every car."

Border Patrol Agent Daniel Paniagua said Mexican authorities were checking every car instead of using the red- or green-light system they normally use.

Usually the wait to cross into Mexico is relatively short — with the exception of big holiday weekends — because Mexican authorities don't stop every car crossing the border.

Sensors at the border track border traffic patterns and trigger a red light that in turn stops vehicles for random inspections.

This system of random inspections has been scrapped in the wake of the coordinated attack against the United States and the heightened level of security all along the border.

Francisco Cordova doesn't mind the wait. He said it is important to take extra precautions against terrorism.

The Mexicali man said he waited about a half-hour longer than normal to get home.

One man entering Mexico did mind the extra time spent waiting to cross.

Fernando Esquer of Calexico was asked if he thought the extra security along the Mexican border would help keep the area secure.

"No," he said. After inching forward in his truck, he said, "I have no idea why they are doing this. The security problems are over there, not here."

Maria Davila didn't agree with Esquer.

The Mexicali woman who has family in Calexico drove a small car without air conditioning toward the international border.

She took off her glasses and wiped her eyes as she was asked if the security on the border is important to her.

"It's not only important for me, it should be important for everyone."

She said she had no problem waiting longer if it meant everyone was safer.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or claverie7@hotmail.com

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