By Mario Conde
With sequestration taking effect at every level of government, Costumes and Border Protection Agency is already feeling the cuts that could cause longer border wait times.
The topic was discussed at Tuesday’s County Board of Supervisor’s meeting when Supervisor Terrazas gave a report on his participation on the Imperial County Transportation Commission Bi-national committee meeting where the Calexico Port Director Billy Withford stated that as a result of sequestration there will be no overtime available and those positions would not be filled when needed because of lack of manpower and that will delay traffic on both the vehicular and pedestrian lanes. The border wait times at the Calexico Port of Entry could increase more than two hours thanks to the sequestration cuts.
CBP sequestration cuts will be made equally across the agency, with no preference by port of arrival. The first cuts will reduce overtime began March 1st, and personnel furloughs will begin the first week of April. It is estimated that CBP must reduce its work hours by the equivalent of over 5,000 border patrol agents and the equivalent of over 2,750 CBP officers.
Terrazas said that other areas that will be affected will be the processing of SENTRI application and any other Visa that has to do with the Homeland Security departments will slow down significantly.
The goal of the ICTC bi-national commission is to have collaboration between agencies in both sides of the border in order to improve and speed up traffic at the border and make it more efficient. Terrazas said that the commission has been discussing six pedestrian lanes to be open on the East of Port of Entry which will push pedestrians from the downtown port of entry and then start a shuttle service at the east port of entry so they could take those pedestrians to Walmart, downtown Calexico, Swap Meets and other points in Calexico. Terrazas said that project is still moving forward and there are two companies interested in providing those shuttle services.
Supervisor John Renison said he will meet with port officials to see if the CBP Supervisors could work the lanes when there is staff available to work those hours. Renison said that if CBP opens just three lanes for border crossing because of the cuts it will be detrimental of the economy of the Imperial County.