Construction, Inspections Snarl Ports of Entry

Louie Gilot, El Paso Times, October 2, 2007

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Efforts to crack down on illegal immigration and to prevent terrorism have wreaked havoc on border communities like El Paso and Juárez where ports of entry are a lifeline between businesses and families.

“We’re going to make it so safe we’re going to suffocate,” said Mike Breitinger, president of the Central Business Association, a group of Downtown El Paso merchants who sell mainly to shoppers from Juárez.

An informal study of wait times showed that El Paso’s Paso del Norte Bridge, bogged down by construction for the next two years, often has the worst lines in the nation.

Each year, 16 million cars, 8 million pedestrians and 700,000 commercial trucks cross El Paso’s three international bridges.

New inspection practices during the past two months have sent wait times soaring at all major border crossings on the U.S. southern and northern borders, business groups and users reported. Reported wait times have been unpredictable and as high as three hours for cars, one hour for pedestrians and between three and six hours for commercial trucks.

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But with new security requirements starting in January and no significant staffing increase, border crossers fear things will only get worse.

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