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Calexico says

May 12, 2002

seniors are at

risk crossing

border in heat


Staff Writer

CALEXICO — City Council members here hope to see the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service provide some sort of special accommodations for senior citizen border-crossers at the downtown port this summer.

If not a special pedestrian line for seniors, the council would like the INS to figure out some way to make sure seniors aren't waiting in line interminably during the hot months, according to Mayor Pro Tem Frank Montoya.


INS Ports Director Michael Freeman said Friday that he'd be willing to listen to any proposals the council brings forth.

Montoya said he was heartened by Freeman's receptiveness. The mayor pro tem initially broached the idea of a special line for seniors during Tuesday's council meeting. He said he brought it up after listening to the concerns of various citizens.

"I just felt we should do something to improve the speeds so that (senior citizens) can get across much faster," he said.

During the council meeting, Montoya expressed concerns about seniors waiting in line in 112-degree heat for up to 45 minutes.

In response to the recent discussions, Mayor John Renison said members of the City Council will meet with INS and U.S. Customs officials this week to talk about the best way to make sure seniors aren't put at risk crossing the border this summer. Renison said he is in favor of a special line for seniors.

Freeman said a new line or a new program for seniors would have to be carefully thought out before instituted.

"Who is going to control the line? Will there be new signage?" he asked rhetorically.

A few years ago the INS tried opening a special line for U.S. citizens. That line didn't quite work out, Freeman said, because people who would wait in the wrong line had to be kicked out or dealt with by INS inspectors.

Similar problems could arise from a seniors-only line.

Freeman is worried about any plan that would make his operations at the downtown port less efficient.

"The overall picture is, I don't want to delay the lines any more than they already are. Say right now it's 15 minutes and I have a special line. The wait is longer," he said.

As a sort of compromise, Freeman suggested a special line could be opened for seniors during the hottest times of the day.

A similar special line is opened up for border-crossing school kids in the morning and Freeman said, "That's worked very well."

As for another way to deal with the issue, Freeman said seniors could be escorted to the front of the line by security guards, just as the handicapped are.

Montoya said, "At this point I would be willing to accept anything they would like to do."

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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