The Immigration and Naturalization Service plans to establish express lanes at certain border crossings to Mexico and Canada - and charge for the expedited service.
According to INS spokesman Verne Jervis, the agency will inaugurate the system sometime in 1991. Express-lane locations and the amount of the fee have yet to be decided, he said.Supporters of a border-crossing toll say the INS' proposal is a start, but that the agency has room under legislation passed by Congress this year to adopt a more ambitious fee program to pay for improved border security.
"They have an opportunity for an aggressive, intelligent program, and the results could provide for a permanent, effective financing vehicle for sound border security, and they're ducking for cover already," said Dan Stein, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Hispanic rights activists, however, questioned the precedent of establishing any fee, even if optional, for crossing the U.S. border. Cecilia Munoz of the National Council of La Raza expressed discomfort about "paying to get into a country. We're living in an age when walls are coming down in other parts of the world and yet the United States is considering a fee for coming in."
And she questioned whether INS can handle another new program given its current management and financial woes.
Jervis, in an interview Friday, said that under the express-crossing program, users who pay the fee would be given a document or decal entitling them to quicker inspections. The fees would be used solely to finance the program, and would come on top of the bridge tolls already charged at some crossings.