CALEXICO — Calexico City Manager Esperanza Colio Warren announced that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will be closing 5 lanes for up to a full year during the latest meeting of the Calexico City Council last Wednesday, September 21. Warren said the closures are due to scheduled construction and a new border schedule is anticipated to go into effect Monday 26.
“On Monday September 19, we had a meeting with the US Customs and Border Protection and the General Services Administration (GSA) as well as county officials,” said Warren. “This is regarding the upcoming closure of five lines coming from the city of Mexicali to the city of Calexico, specifically in the Calexico Westport of entry,” said Warren. “Beginning Monday, you will expect to have delays crossing the border, we were informed that these lanes may be closed up to one year,” said Warren.
Warren said that a new schedule has been proposed that would extend the Eastport of entry to mitigate the crossing issue.
“We’re going to place the new schedule on Facebook, confirmation that the lanes have been closed, and this is all due to the construction that they have right now,” said Warren. “This is going to have an impact on our community for the farm workers as they cross, we’re going to start the high season for farm workers crossing the border on a daily basis,” said Warren.
Warren said she has already reached out to some nonprofit organizations to come up with a plan on how to alleviate the impact on the community. Warren said she did not have all of the details just yet, but said that she would return and report those details before the council.
“But we’re going to start trying to take steps ahead of the game before we get a lot of population on the streets that we don’t want to have,” said Warren.
Councilmember Camilo Garcia recommended that in addition to posting the new border schedule on social media, the city should put up billboards on the highway itself to better alert the population of the impending delays due to lane closures.
Warren restated that they are still waiting on the final confirmation of the new schedule, and once the information is confirmed, they will go ahead and spread that through more analog means such as flyers and billboards.
Councilmember Rosie Arreola-Fernandez said it’s going to be a problem getting into that area and feels it will become a recurring bottleneck area.
“Our city has been experiencing large numbers of people crossing the border,” said Warren. “This (past) Saturday we had a crazy day, having people overcrowded in the intersections, what is happening is many of the residents are ignoring the direction of the traffic controllers,” said Warren “I actually was on the intersection of 98 and 111 and I couldn’t go anywhere because it was completely blocked, because people are not listening to the traffic controllers,” said Warren.
Warren said the blocking of the intersections got so bad Saturday she had to call for Police Chief Jesus Serrano to send for additional patrolmen to assist the traffic controllers.
“I hope the community listens and helps us with that,” said Warren. “We had also an incident with one of the traffic controllers that was hurt because of the same reasons so I want to ask respectfully to everybody to respect those individuals and follow the guide that they provide,” said Warren.
Warren is also very concerned about the impact to the local economy because of the east port of entry and its hours being extended that could result in many transients bypassing Calexico altogether.
“And guess what, they’re not going to stop at the City of Calexico, they’re going to stop at other cities to make their purchases,” said Warren.
Garcia said that talks with Chief Serrano should get underway immediately to get control of the situation and to cite individuals that are ignoring the traffic controllers.
“But if signage is needed, whatever is needed, because the last thing that we want is getting hurt and I think there was already an incident so I don’t want to see this repeat itself again,” said Garcia. “This is a call to all the citizens, not just Calexico but whoever goes through the city and make sure that we notify them, make sure that they see, make sure that there is signage because that way they cannot come back and say you never told me,” said Garcia.
“This situation about the traffic controller that was run over, when I heard about it I was absolutely enraged,” said Mayor Pro Tem Raul Urena. "I was enraged as a transportation commissioner because ever since I’ve been on the commission I’ve told the commission the impact that taking away that subsidy for traffic control that they took away in 2019, what it would do to our community and I would look at this, now we have a body,” said Urena. “Cheryl Walker needs to listen. Maria Nava needs to listen. They need to take away the lens of discrimination they have towards me or towards our city and look at the impact that is having on the bodies of our city employees, this is disgraceful,” said Urena. “I don’t want to reveal any details, right, but we can guess whether that driver was from Calexico or if they were not from Calexico, right,” said Urena.
Urena said the council should send a letter to the Imperial County Transportation Commission (ICTC) and to let them know that their policies were partially a cause of this incident.
“We need at least a partial subsidy control if we’re going to handle the traffic from all the cities,” said Urena. “I’m sorry, that topic really pisses me off to say the least."