No senior lane

short waits sought

June 21, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service will not open a special pedestrian lane for senior-citizen border-crossers at Calexico's downtown port any time soon.

The INS will instead try to guarantee a short wait for all border-crossers and bring all pedestrians who look faint, including senior citizens, to the front of the line.

The idea of a special lane for seniors had been initially broached by Mayor Pro Tem Frank Montoya at a recent City Council meeting. He said seniors shouldn't be made to wait in the hot sun, especially during scorching summer months here.


Montoya's idea was seized upon and endorsed by his colleagues on the council and Capitol Hill denizens Rep. Bob Filner, D-Chula Vista, and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Michael Freeman, the director of the Andrade and Calexico ports of entry, said there is no need for a special senior-citizen lane if he is able to keep the pedestrian lines moving fast.

Lately the wait times have been kept to 20 minutes maximum, according to Freeman.

He plans to keep those wait times brief by employing the maximum number of staffers at the downtown port's four lanes and if that's not enough Freeman has said he'd open up a fifth lane.

Freeman recently met with Mayor John Renison and officials from U.S. Customs and the Department of Justice to tell them of his decision.

According to Renison, the City Council is happy with Freeman's response to their concerns.

"Freeman has assured us it won't be a problem anymore and if we hear to the contrary to let him know," Renison said.

Montoya said he will continue to push for a senior lane if he feels the residents who elected him want a senior lane.

"People have come to us and their concern is our concern," he said.

Montoya didn't attend the meeting with Freeman.

Freeman said, "The ball is in my court now. I have to make sure the times are consistent throughout the summer, two to three months from now."

To make sure seniors and other border-crossers aren't put at risk this summer, Freeman will tell the security guards that work at the port to bring people to the front if they request assistance and he has shared the news with the Mexican security guards who work the line.

Renison said, "The security guards are alerted and (Freeman) has them on the lookout."

To deal with future issues at the port, the city and local INS leadership will look into forming a "border working group" of officials from both camps.

Renison is all for that idea. He said one of the first issues the group should tackle is getting a sentry lane at the Calexico East Port of Entry.

A sentry lane would allow border-crossers who pay a fee to zip through the border in a private lane.

The San Ysidro Port of Entry has had a sentry lane for some time.

One of the issues that Councilman Victor Carrillo would like to see a working group address is the alleged foam cup incident at the downtown port.

After the U.S. national team beat Mexico's team in World Cup play someone allegedly placed a foam cup with a little U.S. flag in it on a table inside the downtown port. Allegedly there was a message on the cup that insulted some Calexicans.

Some of those who were insulted called various City Councilmen including David Ouzan and Carrillo.

At a recent council meeting Carrillo said he thought the whole incident was in poor taste.

He said Mexican citizens offered U.S. citizens condolences after Sept. 11 and showed their support.

Carrillo doesn't feel certain U.S. soccer fans showed the same class following the World Cup match, won 2-0 by the U.S. on goals from Landon Donovan and Brian McBride.

Freeman has said he wasn't working during the time of the alleged incident. Ouzan, who walked into the port after receiving calls from his constituents, said the alleged incriminating foam cup was thrown away before he could snatch it off the table as "evidence."

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

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