Energy & Environment

Border crossing operates on honor system, Border Patrol hundreds of miles away

Border crossing operates on honor system, Border Patrol hundreds of miles away
Boquillas crossing in Big Bend National Park. Photo credit: National Park Service

The Obama administration is set to reopen a crossing station at the Texas and Mexico border that was closed after the September 11 terrorist attack for security concerns, yet is newly constructed to be monitored by customs and border officers stationed hundreds of miles away.

Federal officials estimate the Boquillas crossing located in the Big Bend National Park will accommodate 20,000 visitors a year, whose entry into the U.S. will by monitored by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers 300 miles away in El Paso through surveillance cameras that will observe kiosks where identification cards are scanned for access.

“Remote technology would assist CBP in maintaining security and verifying the identity of those entering the United States, while also ensuring that they possess proper documentation to do so,” said the Federal Register notice announcing the project.

Documentation required to cross the border include a passport, border-crossing card or permanent resident card.

Construction of the new border crossing cost more than $5 million and Border Patrol officials estimate it will cost $200,000 a year to maintain. The station was scheduled to open with little fanfare earlier this spring but was delayed until after the election. Another opening date set for today was also postponed due to a scheduling conflict with President Barack Obama’s cabinet meeting in Washington.

A handful of National Park Service employees will be stationed at the remote facility, but when problems arise or someone tries to bypass the crossing station a Border agent patrolling in the 800,000 acre park will be dispatched to the site. The Park Service acknowledges that illegal border crossings and drug smuggling do occur in the sprawling back country.

The station was historically popular with tourists, and will only be open during daylight hours to accommodate foot traffic — no bridge crosses the Rio Grande River so the only access to the border is by ferry boat or swimming.

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