The two-hour-long wait at the border costs more than time.
A survey presented Thursday found that reducing the wait at the San Ysidro border could potentially save both the U.S. and Mexican economies millions of dollars.
The data for the survey, collected by the South County Economic Development Council (EDC), looked into the reasons why people cross the border, and how wait times affected their economic functions.
It found that most people cross the border for shopping and work, respectively. So time spent waiting to get into the U.S. or Mexico is time not spent on the economy, said Cindy Gompper-Graves, CEO of South County EDC.
“If I told you that I wanted you to get a new job on the other side of the border,” Gompper-Graves said, “And I told you that you had to wait in line in the hot sun without a bathroom for two hours before you could even cross the border to get to your place of employment... I think we all understand why this is not acceptable.”
In 2005, the San Diego Association of Governments found that the U.S. and Mexican economies lost an estimated $6 billion in gross output as a result of traffic congestion at the border.
The best way to fix the border wait time is by improving the Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection, or SENTRI, Gommper-Graves said. SENTRI cards cut the wait time at the border to about 10 seconds per car or pedestrian.
Less than 4 percent of the surveyed pedestrians were current SENTRI cardholders. Most people surveyed either didn’t believe they needed a card or didn’t know how to get one.
Shortening the wait time, then, means a more efficient SENTRI program, with better prices, more office hours and more organized lanes.
Congressman Bob Filner said that eligibility for SENTRI may be leaving many waiting in the long line to get in.
“The eligibility for SENTRI prevents people from applying. You can’t be a resident of Tijuana to get the card. We let you through if you’re a resident alien, but we don’t give you the card.”
Filner also said the reason why the system hasn’t been improved yet is a result of misconstrued national security concerns.
“An inefficient border gives the rest of America the sense that they are secure. That’s ridiculous. It leaves $6 billion on the table,” he said. “We have to stress that this border should not be a fearful one. It should be one of great vitality and energy.”
The EDC survey can be viewed here.