At any given hour, any day of the week thousands of people are crossing the border at the San Ysidro Port of Entry either by foot or by car. So what if you had to pay a few dollars each time you cross into the U.S.?
The Department of Homeland Security has requested funding to study the feasibility and cost of adding fees to crossers at all international borders including the one at San Ysidro, considered the busiest border crossing in the world.
“Processing the more than 350 million travelers annually provides nearly $150 billion in economic stimulus, yet the fees that support these operations have not been adjusted in many cases for more than a decade,” DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano told a House subcommittee last week.
The DHS has said charging a fee could generate millions of dollars, especially at the crossings near San Diego. Officials hope it could raise more money for border protection and inspection.
For border crossers like Raul Zavala, it would be bad for business.
“We come across the border to shop to buy to give to the economy of the United States," Zavala said. "Sometimes if you come across walking it's 2 or 3 hours."
Unless a fee would ensure faster crossing times at the border those who make the trip often say if anything it would make things more difficult.
“Because it's gonna take you the same time, you're not gonna get any benefit by paying," Gerardo Rico said.
Officials have not suggested a possible range for the fee. If approved, it would be collected at all U.S. border crossings, including those along the Mexico and Canada borders beginning next year.
The idea of charging a fee at border crossings is not a new one. In 1995, the border crossing at Otay Mesa was the first to implement a fee-based system to grant some border crossers faster access into the U.S.
The SENTRI (Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection) is available for pre-approved, low-risk travelers. The total cost - including fingerprinting and application costs - is approximately $120 per person.