SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Before leaving office, Donald Trump signed a bill mandating all vehicles and trucks be scanned at border crossings for drugs and other illegal cargo.
Now, the Department of Homeland Security has been given a directive to come up with a plan to implement X-Ray and Gamma-ray technology at ports of entry along the northern and southern borders. It must also figure out how much it will cost and how it will impact wait times at the border.
The bill — Securing America’s Ports Act — was introduced in 2019 by former U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, a Democrat who represented New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District. Republican Yvette Herrell defeated Torres Small in last November’s general election.
“If you say why don’t you put X-Ray machines and Gamma right now, that will not work, it would be chaotic with the worst lines in history so far,” said Gustavo De La Fuente, Chief Executive Officer with the Smart Border Coalition. “You want to make sure you protect the country and secure it, be able to have no risk by inspecting every single vehicle coming through, on paper it sounds like a fabulous option.”
De La Fuente says part of the issue is the lack of cutting-edge technology that can process vehicles a lot faster than current scanners already in place at some ports of entry.
“Part of this is also waiting for technology to be available so that you’re able to inspect every vehicle, but this could be six to 10 years away,” he said.
DHS says right now, its equipment only scans about 1 percent of cars and 15 percent of trucks that haul cargo through crossings like Otay Mesa southeast of San Diego.
De La Fuente says his biggest fear is increased crossing times and how they could hurt the border economy.
“If all of a sudden you install this equipment, it would devastate business, people would be dissuaded from crossing the border in the first place,” he said.
DHS told Border Report it’s very cognizant about border waits and how they affect people’s lives and business activities.
“We don’t want to negatively impact wait times but rather to increase our capabilities to interdict illicit narcotics and other contraband,” wrote Dave Sacks, a CBP spokesman. “By implementing the latest technology, we believe we can protect the American public while continuing to facilitate legitimate trade and travel.”
According to De La Fuente, trucking and cross-border manufacturing would also see a negative impact if truckers are forced to wait longer to haul their cargo across the border.
“You got all these different elements that make it a very difficult scenario if you add this equipment,” said De La Fuente.