By Beryl Forman
Before getting married, my Brazilian husband lived in San Diego for several years with an expired visa. Acknowledging the circumstance, he remained acutely nervous of military bases, checkpoints and kept his distance from the international border.
Before anything bad happened, he returned to Brazil. After my first visit to see him, we decided to get married and applied for a fiancé visa. As assumed, the process was arduous, inconvenient and expensive, with several unexpected hurdles.
Four years passed, he was finally granted a visa and we were married. On the day he received his green card, we accompanied some friends for an evening across the border. With the intentions of parking in San Ysidro, by accident, and quite ironically, we drove across the border. Luckily, the border agents allowed us to avoid the headache of the border wait by assisting us in making a U-turn directly in the front of the line. That night, my husband successfully crossed the border twice with his brand new green card.
Unlike myself, my husband wasn’t thoroughly captivated by the joys of Tijuana. As a first timer, he was unconvinced by the crumbling infrastructure and dirty conditions. This was a reality which he chooses to avoid in Brazil as well. A few months later, I encouraged him to give Baja another chance, with stories of inexpensive lobster and a beautiful wine country. We had a wonderful weekend, but unfortunately, we were caught off guard when we were sent to secondary in Tecate. They ran an extensive background check on his green card and eventually let us go.
This pattern of us being pulled into secondary continued, and my anger began to build up. Why couldn’t the border officials leave a note on his record that he is clear of any issues to avoid wasting both our time and theirs? The frustration of secondary grew enormously when we returned through Tijuana, which has a lot more cars and a lot less management than Tecate. While lines of vehicles on either side of us received inspection, our line remained overlooked for two hours. I became anxious and almost had a panic attack. Once new officers clocked in at midnight, our car was attended to. With tears in my eyes, I voiced my frustration. The officer reviewed my husband’s green card and stated we should never have been there. Then he let us go.
A month later, on a Sunday afternoon, I sat in a car for five hours waiting to cross the border. I guess the new stations and technology invested in alleviating border waits hasn’t done diddly squat. Five hours is an inconceivable amount of time for anyone to have to sit in line, but according to the officer, this is the norm for a Sunday during the summer.
To top things off, Mexico just created their own border check in Tijuana. When my friend and I arrived at the San Ysidro trolley station, we were redirected to a new building and waived to the side because we do not appear to be Mexican. We proceeded to a kiosk, and were questioned by an officer. We were asked where we were headed, and had to show our passports. The officer spent a few minutes filling out paperwork and he let us cross. This is just another unprecedented delay that will undoubtedly make bi-national commutes and tourism worse and worse.