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Lawmakers support special border lane for seniors

May 29, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Bob Filner, D-Chula Vista, have taken up a cause of the Calexico City Council and asked the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to open a special lane for senior citizen border-crossers.

Feinstein made her feelings known by writing a letter to INS Commissioner James Ziglar.

Feinstein wrote, "The city of Calexico has brought this important issue to my attention and I urge your serious consideration of a special pedestrian lane for seniors during the summer months. With temperatures in Imperial County reaching well over 100 degrees, every precaution should be taken to avoid these dangers."

Filner took a more direct route, writing a letter to Michael Freeman, director of the Calexico and Andrade ports of entry.


Filner's letter reads in part, "Senior citizens are very sensitive to the heat and would be susceptible to dire health consequences if they are not given alternative accommodations at the downtown Calexico port of entry. A special line for seniors would be an extension of the humanitarian spirit that the INS has already demonstrated by calling in the hovercraft and horses to help avoid deaths during the summer along the All- American Canal."

Asked about the letters Tuesday, Freeman said, "It's the same as what I told you before. As long as it's not logistically impossible to create special lanes we're open to any suggestions."

Freeman said he had read Feinstein's letter but had not received the letter from Filner.

On Friday Freeman met with members of the Calexico City Council, including Mayor Pro Tem Frank Montoya, who brought up the idea of a special seniors lane at a recent council meeting. Freeman said the council members were impressed with the measures he has already enacted at the downtown Port of Entry.

Since Tuesday of last week, Freeman said, "We haven't had any waits over 20 minutes."

Freeman said he was able to achieve that efficiency by shuffling his staff to ensure each of the pedestrian lanes is fully staffed during peak times.

According to Freeman, "The council would like to see how it goes and meet again in a couple of weeks."

Freeman said it is still possible that the INS could start a seniors lane if there is a particular need, such as Wednesdays when foot traffic is heaviest.

Freeman said the policy is the same as it was before the letters were sent; if a senior citizen or anyone else feels faint while waiting in line, security guards have been told to allow that person to move to the front of the line.

Freeman said he realizes looking out for seniors is important but, "We have to make sure the border is safe for everyone."

Mayor John Renison has a different take on the outcome of Friday's meeting.

He said Tuesday, "The outcome was that the senior pedestrian lane will be a reality post haste within a few days. We will decide then how to get the word out — flyers, news releases — to have the public properly informed. I understand that this will be soon."

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

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