U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are announcing changes to operational hours for vehicle SENTRI lanes at the Otay Mesa passenger port of entry, as result of decreased traffic volume. New operating hours for SENTRI vehicle lanes will be 4 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Otay Mesa passenger border crossing is open 24 hours per day. SENTRI members will be able to use the Ready Lanes at the crossing, designated for travelers with RFID-enabled documents.
This is a change to the passenger portion of the port of entry; there are no changes to the cargo/commercial facility at the port of entry hours.
On April 5, CBP officials announced changes to hours of operation at select ports of entry along the California/Mexico border, in response to decreased traffic volumes because of COVID-19 and restrictions against non-essential travel. On April 20, the U.S., Mexico, and Canada agreed to extend restrictions on non-essential travel across their shared borders for an additional 30 days.
CBP officials have experienced a significant decrease in the volume of northbound traffic arriving at the Otay Mesa border crossing. The week of March 2 compared to last week, CBP officials saw a 43% decrease in vehicle traffic and a 69% decrease in pedestrians.
“We had previously scaled staffing at the nearby San Ysidro port of entry because of significant drops in traffic volumes,” said CBP Director of Field Operations for San Diego, Pete Flores. “Continued decreases in traffic has necessitated adjustments at the Otay passenger border crossing to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure to our workforce and to enable us to devote resources to combating the criminal element that may try to take advantage of the crisis to further their illegal enterprises, such as outbound inspections.”
Overall, there has been a decrease in northbound traffic at all the land ports of entry on the California border with Mexico. The week of March 2 compared to last week there was an average decrease of 52% in vehicle crossings for a daily average of more than 42,000 vehicles. We also experienced an average decrease of 76% in pedestrians crossing, with a daily average of almost 14,000. In addition, last week, 90% – 94% of travelers entering in vehicles and on foot were U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
On March 21, CBP introduced temporary restrictions that limit entry at the U.S. northern and southern land borders to persons engaged in essential travel, including lawful trade, emergency response, and public health purposes. U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents and certain other travelers are exempt from the restrictions on entry at U.S. land borders. These individuals will receive the same processing, evaluation and potential CDC medical screening that all entrants undergo at U.S. ports of entry. Cross-border travel for the purpose of purchasing supplies generally is not permissible under the current travel restrictions, unless the traveler seeks to purchase supplies not readily available where they reside in Canada or Mexico. In general, cross-border travel for the purpose of visiting immediate family members generally is not permissible under the new travel restrictions. Limited exceptions may be granted for individuals who serve as caretakers or who are providing transport to a medical appointment. Please refer to the Federal Register Notices regarding temporary travel restrictions on the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico borders for activities that qualify as essential travel.
Essential travel includes, but is not limited to:
- U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States;
- Individuals traveling to receive medical treatment;
- Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions;
- Individuals traveling to work in the United States;
- Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes;
- Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade (truck drivers);
- Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel;
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces, returning to the United States; and
- Individuals engaged in military-related travel or operations.
The land borders remain open to lawful trade and travel for emergency response, public health, and other essential purposes, while taking critical steps to protect our employees and citizens and to curb spread of the virus.