AG & INS Commissioner Inaugurate New SENTRI Enrollment Office

Immigration and Naturalization Service


January 14, 2003

Attorney General and INS Commissioner Inaugurate New
SENTRI Enrollment Office

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — United States Attorney General John Ash croft this afternoon inaugurated the new, expanded enrollment office serving the nation’s largest dedicated commuter lane (DCL) program in a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The Attorney General said the state-of-the-art facility, located at the Okay Mesa port-of-entry, underscores the Bush Administration’s commitment to create “smart borders” that promote both national and economic security.

"Dedicated commuter lanes are crucial to our efforts to enhance security while facilitating the legitimate flow of people across our international borders," Attorney General Ash croft said. "Nowhere is that mandate more critical than in this region, home to the busiest land border crossing in the world."

The Attorney General was accompanied on his daylong visit to San Diego by the newly named Acting Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Michael Garcia. Garcia, a former Assistant Secretary of Commerce and federal prosecutor, pointed to the important enforcement benefits dedicated commuter lanes provide. The Commissioner cited the fact that in the last two years INS Inspectors at San Diego area ports-of-entry have intercepted more than 1,100 criminal fugitives, including a man being sought for a triple murder in Los Angeles.

"The thorough background screening SENTRI participants undergo during the enrollment process enables INS Inspectors at land border crossings to focus more attention on the arriving travelers we don’t know," Commissioner Garcia said. "And that is paying off in ways that make the community safer for all concerned."

The new enrollment center will enable the INS to boost the number of motorists being processed for participation in the local SENTRI (Secure Electronic Network for Travelers’ Rapid Inspection) program by almost 30 percent. Currently, there are more than 26,000 motorists enrolled in the San Diego-Tijuana area SENTRI program. In an average month, the dedicated commuter lanes at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa ports-of-entry log more than 180,000 crossings.

Local interest in DCLs has increased dramatically since 9/11. Due to the heavy demand, it is taking six to eight months for prospective SENTRI participants to complete the enrollment process, including the background check and interview. With the opening of the larger, more technologically sophisticated enrollment center INS expects to reduce that timeframe significantly.

The new SENTRI enrollment center boasts an array of enhancements designed to make the enrollment process more user friendly. Many of the changes are the result of suggestions made by community leaders and SENTRI participants. A specially designed counter and automated workstations have reduced the overall time needed for applicants to complete the two-step enrollment process from three hours to approximately an hour. A state-of-the-art system electronically tracks all applications and schedules appointments. That system also captures statistical data, which will be used to monitor and improve the overall efficiency of the application process. INS has also overhauled the SENTRI telephone system to better handle the more than 500 daily incoming calls.

- INS -

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 03012140.