SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — The San Diego-based Smart Border Coalition is urging the federal government to give people enrolled in the SENTRI program permission to enter the United States even if it’s for non-essential reasons.

The SENTRI program was instituted in 1995, giving low-risk border commuters who have been pre-screened a chance to enter the U.S. through special lanes without having to wait in long lines.

“The whole idea is to try and get back to a certain normality, and we believe the SENTRI lane is a very useful tool for that,” said Gustavo de la Fuente, executive director of the Smart Border Coalition.

De la Fuente says a pilot program within the SENTRI program would allow for more border crossings during the ongoing pandemic.

Hundreds of cars waiting to cross through SENTRI lanes at the San Ysidro Port of Entry between San Diego and Tijuana. (Salvador Rivera/Border Report)

He says it wouldn’t take much for people to upload their COVID-19 vaccination history onto their SENTRI profile.

“You’re supposed to be a low-risk traveler, why wouldn’t I add to that same program that I got vaccinated and let authorities know before I cross the border,” said De la Fuente. “So if you’re vaccinated, and you can prove you are vaccinated through a system that already works, why not use that system.”

De la Fuente believes eliminating restrictions for people in the program will benefit border economies along the southern border where many communities have been crippled by the effects of pandemic.

“If you start a process, you’re injecting optimism to the border environment, why not try it, what do you have to lose,” said De la Fuente.

According to the De la Fuente, they have reached out to U.S. Customs and Border Protection about their idea but have yet to hear back.

Border Report also reached to the CBP to see about the feasibility of the plan, but we have not been able to get comment.

Applicants for the SENTRI program — short for Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection — must undergo thorough background checks on criminal, customs, immigration, law enforcement and terrorist databases. They must also pass a personal interview with CBP officers.

Enrollment fee is about $123, SENTRI status is valid for 5 years.

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