New border card readers expedite border crossings

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A June 1st deadline looms for U.S. citizens who are required to have a passport to return home by land or sea. Many people living in Border States opted for the new, cheaper wallet-sized passport card. And some are just learning those documents also have a time saving feature that can expedite border inspections.

U.S. Customs and border protection officers are busy this week trying to get the word out about the RF enabled IDs that can shave time off the inspection process. Here's how it works: motorists and passengers nearing the front of the line at border crossings hold their documents up to a card reader which transmits their information to the inspection booth where an officer can see it before the vehicle drives up to the checkpoint. See a step by step demo.

The federal government says the system can reduce inspection time by 6-8 seconds. I know that doesn't sound like much but it adds up when you consider the tens of thousands of vehicles carrying multiple passengers that cross the border every day. That quickly adds up. The problem: most people don't know about the time saving system. They're waiting until they get to the booth to hand their passports to officers.

CPB Public Affairs Liaison Rick Lopez says, "Great technology now it's our job to push this out there to the traveler." Most people don't know the technology is imbedded in their cards or how to use it. CPB is using the June 1st deadline to encourage travelers and border residents to apply for the RFID enabled documents. In addition to the border cards, laser visas and "trusted traveler" documents use for Sentri lanes also work with the card readers. To really speed things up, the technology needs to be widespread.

Regular passport booklets don't have that capability. Although there seems to be a plan to add the RFID chip in the future. There's also a push to include it in "Legal Resident Alien" cards too.

"It's faster and easier for you," explained El Pasoan Araceli Lopez after driving up to the sensor and flashing her card out the window. She's been doing this for two months now. But again, most motorists have no idea what she's doing.

Dallas area resident Greg Reshetar noticed the card readers while he was waiting at the Bridge of the America's in El Paso. After the checkpoint before begining the long drive home to North Texas he said he's all for the new system. "If it gets you by the line quicker than it is now, it's worth it."

I'm sure Arizona residents returning from Rocky Point would agree. They often line up for hours at the border on their way home.

Now, if they could just get the RFID readers at U.S. airports, I'm sure summer vacation travelers would be thrilled too.