Southbound traffic increasing as Mexicans head home for holidays
TUCSON, Arizona (AP) -- The steady stream of Mexicans from the United
States making year-end trips home to see their families should flow more
smoothly this holiday season.
Officials expect more than 100,000 southbound Mexicans to cross through
Nogales, Mexico, the busiest port on the Arizona border, between now and
Christmas -- a 30 percent increase over a year ago, Mexican Consul Roberto
Rodriguez Hernandez said Monday.
But across the border in Nogales, Arizona, Mayor Cesar Rios predicted smoother
travel this year because new President Vicente Fox wants to make it easier for
people returning home.
Delays have been the rule for many en route to the Mexican interior for
Christmas and New Year's. There have been frequent tie-ups in clearing
customs, acquiring necessary permits and, at least occasionally, dealing with
bribes sought by Mexican immigration or customs agents or federal police.
"In the past, they used to stop them at the border, question them ... I
going to run smoother this year, and the flow will be what it should be: fewer
traffic tie-ups," Rios said.
Meantime, officials believe Mexico's "Paisano Program" will continue to
transit across the border. The program, about 10 years old, enables Mexicans
who are permanent U.S. residents to enter Mexico simply by declaring their
nationality and presenting a U.S. green card.
"In the past they were abused by Mexican immigration officers and Mexican
federal police," Hernandez said. "Every year we are getting better, more results
with fewer complaints."
The program also eases restrictions on duty-free goods Mexicans can take
the country between December 1 and January 10, increasing the limit from $50
to $300 per person.
U.S. Customs Port Director P.T. Wright said the northbound return, usually
during the second week of January, puts a greater burden on his staff.
Customs does not record southbound crossings into Mexico, but averages
million people coming north each month, he said.
Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.