EL CENTRO — The Imperial County Board of Supervisors approved a letter to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Director of Field Operations, Anne Maricich, at its regular meeting Tuesday, May 11, requesting the consideration of expanding hours of operation at the Calexico East Land Port of Entry (LPOE).
According to County CEO Tony Rouhotas, the hours of operation at the Calexico East LPOE have changed to reflect the reduction of 10 hours in its passenger portion for over a year due to COVID-19. He said US CBP’s initial justification for the reduced hours of operation was due to decreased traffic volume due to the travel restrictions implemented to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. However, he said travel between the countries is increasing and leading to longer wait times at the border.
For more than a year, the hours of operation have been limited to 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Hours of operation previously were 6 a.m. to midnight.
The reduced hours of operation were not applied to the cargo and commercial facility of the LPOE, according to the letter.
The letter stated, “As you know, both of these LPOEs are within Imperial County and we have received numerous complaints from constituents regarding the long border wait times, some sharing that times have reached up to four hours to cross.”
The letter addressed the concerns the Board has regarding long wait times and how it affected community members and US essential workers who reside in Mexicali. Tardiness and absenteeism are direct results from the long wait times and lessen the effectiveness of local companies and organizations, according to the letter.
“Aside from residents who travel back and forth between LPOEs for professional, medical, or personal purposes, a large percentage of workers employed by agricultural companies located in Imperial County live in Mexicali and cross the border every day,” the letter stated.
The letter also addressed concerns for long wait times during the hot summer months as temperatures begin to rise. Farmers and ranchers typically implement night and early-morning production schedules to combat the heat, but with limited hours of operation they are unable to do so, forcing their employees to work in temperatures upward of 95 degrees.
Long wait times impact the local economy, air quality due to idling vehicles, and community members on both sides of the border, according to the letter.
“It is our understanding that most LPOEs along the US-Mexico border are operating at their regular (standard operating) hours. Could you please provide justification for continuing the adjusted, minimized operating hours for the Calexico LPOE,” the letter asked.