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[Congressional Record: March 19, 2003 (Extensions)]
[Page E519-E520]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []



                          HON. SUSAN A. DAVIS

                             of california

                    in the house of representatives

                       Wednesday, March 19, 2003

  Mrs. DAVIS of California. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss an 
opportunity to strengthen national security, promote bi-national 
commerce, and provide assistance to our dedicated agents at the border.
  My district touches the U.S.-Mexico border. Because of this 
proximity, ports of entry play a vital role in our area's economic and 
social life. Thousands of San Diego and Tijuana residents cross the 
border every day as commuters, shoppers, or visitors, illustrating the 
growing global connection between our neighboring countries. 
Unfortunately, our border infrastructure has not kept pace with the 
booming traffic volume, and travelers frequently encounter delays and 
congestion at the border.
  The tragic events of September 11 further intensified these 
challenges along the border. Increased security measures severely over-
extended inspection resources and waits lasting up to several hours 
became commonplace. Ports of entry in other states that had not 
previously encountered significant delays realized that they were not 
well equipped to handle future volume growth. This climate raised the 
need for innovative methods that meld security measures with more 
efficient practices. For some of my constituents, the answer came in 
the form of a dedicated commuter lane program called SENTRI.
  SENTRI, which stands for Secure Electronic Network for Travelers' 
Rapid Inspection, accepts only low-risk travelers who pass both an 
extensive background check to verify their eligibility and a thorough 
inspection of their vehicle. After passing through these steps, 
travelers receive the privilege of using an exclusive lane to cross the 
border into the United States.
  Since its introduction, SENTRI has quickly demonstrated its ability 
to reduce wait times without compromising border security. Border waits 
often lasted an hour or more before SENTRI, but now average only 5 to 
15 minutes for enrollees. Travelers in other lanes also benefit because 
the prescreened SENTRI crossers move swiftly through the border, 
reducing the number of motorists using general commuter lanes. 
Expediting inspections through SENTRI is actually helping to improve 
border security, as Customs and Border Patrol agents can focus more 
attention on non-screened drivers and passengers. Additionally, those 
travelers in SENTRI lanes have a 50 percent greater probability of 
being referred to secondary inspection than those in regular lanes due 
to built in random selection. As a result of embedded security 
measures, statistics show an extremely low rate of fraud among renewal 
participants. Simply put, SENTRI lanes are more efficient and better 
inspected than regular commuter lanes.
  Unfortunately, SENTRI has become a victim of its own success. SENTRI 
needs a greater investment of resources to keep up with the current and 
future demand. Enrollment increased by more than 100 percent after 
September 11 and, currently, prospective applicants must wait 
approximately 8 months. I believe that if we want innovative programs 

[[Page E520]]

SENTRI to work, we must provide them with the tools and resources they 
need to succeed. This is why I am re-introducing the Secure and Fast 
Entry at the Border Act or SAFE Border Act.
  The SAFE Border Act recognizes the contribution of SENTRI to border 
security and the agents who administer the program. My bill ensures the 
continuity of SENTRI as the Immigration and Naturalization Service and 
Customs Department transition into the Department of Homeland Security, 
and reinforces recent agency action by permanently extending the SENTRI 
renewal period from 1 to 2 years--enabling border agents to process new 
applicants and reduce the current enrollment wait. SAFE Border also 
recommends the appointment of dedicated SENTRI staff to expedite 
application processing, encourages the creation of a dedicated commuter 
lane for prescreened, low-risk pedestrian crossers, and promotes the 
integration of technology at SENTRI sites for increased access at 
participating ports of entry.
  Our agents at the border shoulder an enormous responsibility every 
day. I believe we owe them the appropriate resources and support they 
need to carry out their duties. The SAFE Border Act, as a result, 
increases security by enabling more people to be prescreened and 
allowing border agents to focus more attention on other border 
  Our nation's economic and overall security is heavily linked to 
smooth and secure border crossings. The SAFE Border Act provides a way 
for trusted travelers to cross the border securely and quickly.
  I urge my colleagues in Congress to act quickly in passing the SAFE 
Border Act into law.