SAN YSIDRO, California – At the Puerta Este border crossing, U.S. citizens and other foreigners walking into Mexico must now show their passports.
“I do business in Baja California, and I do business here in California, so I cross the border every day,” said Alex Casian, a San Diego resident.
Casian and border residents worry the passport requirement will create a backlog on the border this time for those heading into Mexico.
“If you’re making it harder to cross the border, then it is making it harder for all the businesses down there to receive people and actually do our services,” Casian said.
Travelers also have to fill out a form. If they plan to stay longer than a week, they also have to pay a $20 fee for a six-month permit.
According to the federal officials in both Hermosillo, Son., and Tijuana, B.C., there are currently no plans to put in place such a system at the crossings at Los Algodones, Baja Calif., or San Luis Rio Colorado, Son.
Casian builds websites and does marketing for hotels in the San Diego area.
“It’s going to affect the U.S. and Mexico because people won’t shop on either side of the border,” said Arturo Ramirez, who relies on tips he earns carrying shopping bags across the border with his cart.
So far, Mexico is only enforcing the passport rule at the newly renovated San Ysidro border crossing. That $6.9 million structure includes a separate immigration line for foreigners and will serve as a model as Mexico expands the passport requirement along the border.
“It is important for the border states in the United States and the border states in Mexico to have better infrastructure in order to be ready for the future,” said Roberto Rodriguez Hernandez, consul general of Mexico in Phoenix.
Motorists will not have to show their passports to Mexican immigration officers at the border. And if lines grow too long, the requirement may be waived for pedestrians during peak crossing times.
But passport requirement is expected to help both Mexico and the United States improve border security.
“Since 15 or 20 years ago they were thinking to ask for passports. But now it happens for safety reasons for both countries,” Rodriguez Hernandez said.