The border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana is the nation’s busiest, and it just got more complicated. As of now, pedestrians need a passport to enter Mexico.
Walking into the San Ysidro crossing, Mexicans go into one line and proceed unchecked, while foreigners will be directed to another line. Passports will be checked, forms filled, and for those staying more than a week, a US$20 fee will be charged for a six-month permit.
This has been a similar protocol for travelers at Mexican airports. But the new border procedure is a big change for land crossings that were not designed to question everyone. Previously pedestrians and motorists have been able to enter Mexico’s 1,954 mile border without scrutiny.
“This is about putting our house in order,” said Rodulfo Figueroa, Mexico’s top immigration official in Baja California, which includes Tijuana.
The new process began without a hitch last week as about a dozen foreigners stood in line, directed by English-speaking agents. The process took only 10 minutes from start to finish. Motorists will see no change and, if the lines get too long, pedestrians will be waved through as well.
Changes have been in the works for years. Coincidentally, they come as Donald Trump has surged to the top of the Republican field in the U.S. presidential race. Trump has insisted that Mexico sends criminals to the U.S. and pledges to build a border wall at Mexico’s expense.
For Mexico, it is a step toward closing an escape route for American criminals who disappear into Mexico. Border inspectors are able to tap into international criminal databases. More than 120 Americans, living in Baja California had arrest warrants pending in the U.S. All were expelled from Mexico this year, according to the National Migration Institute. Some were on the FBI’s most-wanted list.
About 25,000 pedestrians (and 50,000 motorists) cross daily at San Ysidro to work, shop, and play but it is unclear how many are foreigners in Mexico. U.S. Customs and Border Protection says about one-third entering San Diego are U.S. citizens, one-third are U.S. legal residents and the rest are from other countries, largely Mexico.