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Immigration officials preparing to check pedestrian entries into Mexico

Tijuana, Mexico – Foreigners crossing the Tijuana border by foot can expect delays and increased security as Mexican immigration officials prepare to ramp up inspections.

Beginning September, those crossing the border from San Ysidro will be required to produce official travel documents such as a passport card or acutal US passport.

Rodulfo Figueroa, head of Mexico’s National Migration Institute in Baja California, said that the new security will be in place by September. He says that by then, they also expect the opening of a new Mexican immigration and customs inspections building at the Tijuana pedestrian entry.

The new measures will be enforced gradually while inspectors remain sensitive to the flow of people entering Mexico.

“We will do everything we can to make the transition as seamless as possible,” Figueroa said. “People should not be panicking about this. We’re not going to create a four-hour southbound wait.”

Since US citizens are already expected to produce passports or other form of valid travel documents when re-entering the US, the new measures are not expected to have much of an impact on them.

Previous attempts by Mexico to enforce immigration inspections at the Baja California crossing were met with stiff resistance, mostly from business leaders and tourism authorities. They expressed concern that passport requirements would have an impact on the amount of visitors to the state, especially for those who intended to remain in Mexico for more than the 7-day permit.

A fee of $28 US for a stay of more than seven days in Mexico was part of a pilot project put into place last November. However, the pilot project was canceled after Baja California Govenor Francisco Vega de Lamadrid took up the issue with Mexico’s immigration commissioner.

This time, the new plan is fully supported by top officials. Immigration inspectors currently inspect documents of all southbound bus riders entering Tijuana from San Ysidro through the El Chaparral port of entry and have also been conducting some inspections on foot-crossers at the discretion of immigration inspectors.

With the opening of new building in September, authorities will create two lanes for pedestrians entering Mexico, one for Mexican citizens and the other for foreigners. “If we don’t have enough agents to review everyone, we’ll review everyone we can,” Figueroa said. “Our intention is not to create congestion at the border. Our intention is to try different strategies to process as many people as we can within a reasonable time frame.”

Similar inspections for those driving  into Mexico are also being contemplated, but these “are way, way into the future,” Figueroa said.

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