New Border Rules Start Smoothly in San Diego People traveling by land into the U.S. have to show border guards their proof of citizenship starting Thursday. The Department of Homeland Security was prepared for confusion, and most likely issued warnings at the start. But U.S. customs officials said delays were minimal at the busiest U.S. gateway on the southern border.
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New Border Rules Start Smoothly in San Diego

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New Border Rules Start Smoothly in San Diego

New Border Rules Start Smoothly in San Diego

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It's no longer good enough to declare that you're an American or a Canadian citizen when crossing the border into the U.S. Tough new rules went into effect today in all U.S. land ports, requiring proof of citizenship from all travelers 19 and over. Customs agents worry that the new requirement for additional documents might cause major delays. But so far, problems today have been minor.

We have two reports from the northern and southern borders, beginning with NPR's Ted Robbins near San Diego.

TED ROBBINS: The San Ysidro port of entry, which borders Tijuana south of San Diego, is the busiest land crossing in the world. The government says 17 million vehicles and 50 million people cross here every year, mostly Mexicans working in the U.S. But the traffic goes the other way too for shopping and entertainment. All those people squeezed through a pedestrian entry and just 24 vehicle lanes.

Customs agent Patricia Walman(ph) is checking documents in one of those lanes.

Ms. PATRICIA WALMAN (Customs Agent): You got your passport?

Unidentified Woman #1: Yeah, and my (unintelligible) certificate.

ROBBINS: On a sign above the entry booth, there's a listing of acceptable IDs. Effective January 31st, 2008, all U.S./Canada citizens 19 years and older are expected to present a photo ID and proof of citizenship.

Ms. WALMAN: Anything to clear up today?

Unidentified Woman #1: Nothing. (Unintelligible). Thank you.

ROBBINS: Proof of citizenship means any document showing which country you're a citizen of. For Americans or Canadians, that's a passport or military ID, or lacking that, a birth certificate and a photo ID.

Gordo Dylan(ph) heads Customs operations for the California border. He says the object is to improve security by requiring documents and by winnowing down the number of acceptable documents. Before today, border agents would accept up to 8,000 different documents, like any driver's license for instance.

Mr. GORDO DYLAN (Customs Operations, California Border): So what we're doing is reducing that 8,000 documents to a manageable of less than, let's say, 20 documents.

ROBBINS: A number of critics worry that the new requirements would slow commerce. Jorge Montada(ph) has been sitting in line at San Ysidro with his wife and baby for 90 minutes.

Mr. JORGE MONTADA (Mexico Resident): One hour and a half. I cross probably twice a month. It's a long time to wait. Yeah, it's a couple of times, it's hard.

ROBBINS: As a Mexican citizen, he has a U.S. visa. Nothing changed for him and other foreign citizens today. Frankly, with normal waits that long, it was difficult to tell whether the new requirements made the long wait even longer.

Ted Robbins, NPR News, on the U.S.-Mexico border south of San Diego.

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