Twoyears later, NEXUS is motoring along

Published on Thu, Aug 19, 2004 by eg Olson

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Two years later, NEXUS is motoring along

By Meg Olson

A little over two-years since the lanes opened, the NEXUS commuter lane program is continuing to expand, both in scope and numbers. Canadian authorities have added new technology and extended open hours this summer, and U.S authorities have outlined an informal appeal process for those who have been denied membership or have had their privileges revoked.

U.S. and Canadian border authorities will host an open house this weekend to encourage travelers to participate in NEXUS and the newer FAST program, designed to speed pre-cleared cargo across the border. “We want to market the programs,” said Jerry Jensen, U.S. Customs and Border Protection assistant port director in the Blaine area. “A steady increase in participants is what we want to see. It helps us. It helps them.”

NEXUS participants get the privilege of using the special lanes, which can whisk them across the border in a few minutes while travelers in the regular lanes may wait hours, and border authorities in turn save time on low-risk travelers and can focus on potential threats. “From a risk-management standpoint the more people are signed up in NEXUS the more time we have to concentrate on what we need to concentrate on,” Jensen said. “We want to concentrate on the people who are high risk and we know 95 percent of the people who cross the border are compliant.”

The NEXUS program replaced the PACE program following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, adding new technology and a coordinated database share by the U.S. and Canada intended to increase security by sifting out low-risk travelers and. When NEXUS enrollment opened in early June 2002 the processing center was flooded with 30,000 applications in three weeks, many of them former PACE participants anxious to get back in the fast lane. Former Blaine Immigration and Naturalization Service port director Jerry Blotsky had estimated PACE participation at 160,000 before it was shut down.
Today, Jensen said, membership has just passed the 40,000 mark and the enrollment center is adding an average of 575 new members monthly, with processing running from two to four weeks and less than one percent of applicants getting rejected. A Canada Customs representative at the NEXUS office said they were still somewhat backlogged with a higher than usual number of summer applications, which had pushed that estimated processing closer to four to six
weeks.

The current wait for a NEXUS card is a far cry from the program’s early days, when the processing center was churning through 250 applications a day and many members waited six months or more. “It’s cooled off quite a bit,” Jensen said, “but it’s been pretty constant since that intial onslaught.”

Jensen said he did not have a figure available on how many people have had their NEXUS privileges revoked. He did however say those who had lost their cards or had been denied one now had an informal appeal process available, which was not the case when the program started. “You can write a letter to the port director, it will be reviewed, researched and analyzed and a decision will be made,” he said. Correspondence to port director Margaret Fearon should be sent to the CPB Pacific Highway office.

When NEXUS started Canadian border authorities put off installing readers for the radio-tagged NEXUS cards that would trigger a database record on the inspector’s screen, but this summer the equipment went in at both the Pacific Highway and Douglas crossings.

Hours were also expanded at the Peace Arch on the Canadian side, where the lane will now be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The NEXUS/FAST open house is at Semihamoo Resort from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, August 20, and then on Saturday, August 21 in Surrey at the Hampton Inn and Suites. Visitors at either location can sign up for FAST or NEXUS on site, and can learn about plans for future improvements to both systems from presenters between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.