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CBP offers tips to reduce border crossing wait times

November 23, 2018

With longer expected waiting periods at international bridges during the holiday season, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has several tips for travelers to speed up the process just in time for Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

Throughout its social media pages and website, CBP is reminding travelers that crossing times will likely be longer than normal because of the added traffic and the ongoing deployment of officers in regards to the migrant caravan response.

Hector Mancha, CBP director of Field Operation in El Paso, said in a news release that he advises travelers to prepare ahead of time before heading to international bridges.

“Border crossers should take steps to help themselves and also plan to build extra time into their schedules to accommodate what will be longer than normal processing times,” Mancha said in the news release. “With the deployment of our CBP Officers, coupled with the busy holiday season, border crossing points will be just as saturated as area shopping malls, roadways, and other locations that draw holiday traffic.”

CBP spokesman Elias Rodriguez said he advises local residents and visitors to have crossing documents ready before reaching the inspection booth.

“During the holiday, we generally experience an increase in travelers, so we encourage our traveling public to have their documents ready and if they have one of those RFID documents to have them on hand,” Rodriguez said. “We’re expecting a good turnout and increase during this holiday season, especially during Black Friday.

“We’re encouraging our travelers to plan ahead and use the ‘ready lanes.’ If they are part of the SENTRI program or the global entry, they can use the dedicated commuter lanes to decrease their wait time.”

CBP encourages travelers to obtain and utilize the radio-frequency-identification-technology-equipped travel documents, such as U.S. passport cards, newer versions of border crossing cards and resident alien cards so they can utilize designated and marked ready lanes.

Rodriguez said processing in ready lanes is 20 percent faster than normal lanes and provide a time savings of up to 20 seconds per vehicle.

Travelers should also declare all items acquired abroad to avoid fines and penalties, which include agricultural products and gifts.

It’s preferred that gifts are not wrapped in case CBP officers need to perform a more thorough inspection. Travelers should also end cell phone conversations before arriving at the inspection booth.

Brownsville resident Maria Cuellar traveled from Matamoros to Brownsville on Wednesday and said the waiting time wasn’t too bad, but she knows it’ll be even longer today and this weekend.

“During these times, the waiting line at the bridge is the worst compared to any other time during the year,” Cuellar said in Spanish. “Lots of people will travel tomorrow. On Thanksgiving Day, a lot of people will be crossing over. Right now, there wasn’t much line, but I know that it’ll increase for Thanksgiving and Black Friday.”

She added she knows many people from Mexico who have family in Brownsville and recommends they wake up early to cross and make it in time for Thanksgiving lunch or dinner.

Not only that, Cuellar said numerous people also cross during the holidays to take advantage of season sales at different stores.

“Unfortunately, in Matamoros, everything is more expensive for people,” Cuellar said. “Here, everything is more inexpensive and better quality either in the downtown Brownsville stores or Sunrise Mall. It hurts to say because I’m Mexican, but it’s true.”

The CBP spokesperson said the agency will make the necessary arrangements to facilitate and assist the traveling public with their experience entering the United States.

“We want to thank the public for their patience during the crossing of the holiday season because of all the increase of more travelers who want to come visit the United States,” he said. “Our agents are ready and they will take measures to facilitate their entry into the United States while having a safe travel.”

People looking to cross at international bridges can monitor border wait times online at bwt.cbp.gov or download the “CBP BWT” app from the Apple App Store or Google Play to check wait times and make a more informed decision on where to cross.

Wait times are updated hourly.

jsanchez@brownsvilleherald.com

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