Otay Mesa Border Crossing Criminally Long

by on April 23, 2012 · 14 comments

in California, Civil Rights, San Diego

Just got home from a grueling 4 hour wait in line at the Otay Mesa border crossing on Sunday, April 24th. We were coming in from a camping trip near Mexicali, chose to drive to Tecate and arrived at the entrance to the border crossing about 4:00 pm, but found that the border crossing was closed. No reason given and I can find no reason posted anywhere on the internet why the border crossing was closed. We drove over to Tijuana and got in line at the Otay Mesa border crossing at 5pm. We finally reached the customs booth at around 10pm.

Like my husband and I, there were hundreds and hundreds of people in line. There are no opportunities for the drivers to take a break, no public bathrooms, and no information on how long the wait will be. The whole system feels random and haphazard. It was difficult to know if we were even in the right lane. It was hot and horrible to be stuck breathing fumes for hours on end.  Every bone in my body ached

I saw a woman driving a car with her head resting on the steering wheel, she looked like she was crying. There was an infant ‘s seat in the back. How did this mother care for the baby while trying to get over the border? How did she perform diaper changes, feeding, or comforting for those 4 to 5 hours? And while there is an expansion project planned for the San Ysidro border crossing, it might be facing delays due to lack of funds according to Alexandra Mendoza of the San Diego Red.

Meanwhile, it seems that it is bad organization and poor public communication as usual at the border crossing. Why do we think this is an acceptable way to run our border crossings? How much would it take to have a little more information available to people? Maybe a sign explaining the delay. Perhaps a few officials to answer questions or to tell us which lane we should be in? Or maybe the simple provision of port-a-potties and pull over stops for the travel weary? How much would it take to make sure Americans and visitors are informed about what is going on and what to expect? At least some visible security so we know that if something goes wrong in the frustrated crowd, someone will come to help us.

It certainly wouldn’t take much to help make the wait a little more endurable, if not faster. In my opinion, it is terribly inept to force people to endure such outrageously uncomfortable conditions while making no attempt to ease the situation. It’s more than public relations, it’s about trade between the two countries and it is about safety.

The situation I just experienced is the perfect recipe for someone to act out their rage at being stuck without power or recourse in a line that might last forever. I noticed it could have been worse for those of us lucky enough to be crossing in our cars. Looking across, I saw a very long line of people waiting to cross the border on foot. They all were standing because there was no way to sit. The line didn’t discernibly move while I watched. Who thinks this is okay? Surely the United States and Mexico can make this a less tortuous experience. I can’t help but think that the United States wants to make it as difficult as possible to visit Mexico and that is why they fail to bother solving some of the issues at the border crossings.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Goatskull April 23, 2012 at 9:40 am

Ironically, I used to go to the Otay Mesa border crossing to avoid the longer lines in San Ysidro when returning. Oh well, sadly it is what it is which is why I rarely head down there anymore. I don’t see the powers that be taking many steps to improve the situation.


Jack April 23, 2012 at 11:29 am

I miss going to Tijuana with friends to have lunch…not to get drunk and stupid, just to have a different setting and a variety of restaurants we do not have here. We use to go down every couple of months or so….filling seafood fare at Los Arcos, a belly-full of carnitas at La Vuelta, the original Ceaser salad at Victor’s, or late afternoon elegance at Boccacio’s. I even knew a short-cut to legitimately get to the head of the line home. But I simply will not go anymore…I do not have the time or inclination to end the day with 4-5 hour wait to protect our precious borders.


Goatskull April 23, 2012 at 12:52 pm

I miss going down to K38 to surf AND going to TJ to see punk rock shows at Iguana’s. All a distant memory now and never to return. About the only way I would go down there any more is in some kind of guided tour situaion like for wine tasting or something of that nature.


RAUL April 23, 2012 at 12:12 pm



Pete R April 23, 2012 at 2:00 pm

The main reason for such long delays at Otay Mesa is that it is the primary commercial port of entry for the region- so nearly all of the trucks carrying goods from Mexico come through here. Fortunately, a new commercial crossing known as Otay Mesa East is already in the works, which will be a much larger facility built specifically for truck traffic. A freeway connecting directly to I-805 is also part of the project.

The project is currently in the design phase. Construction is expected to start next year and be finished around 2015. You can find more information on the project’s status, including the option to sign up for email newsletters, here: http://bit.ly/IbnpU0


Brenda McFarlane April 25, 2012 at 7:32 am

Thank you Pete R for the information.


Dwight Christensen April 23, 2012 at 8:08 pm

Well! That will teach you to play in your own yard!! (grin) I personally will not go into Mexico due to the current problems going on. It is just not safe. You may be lucky for a while, but sooner or later the averages will catch up and you will become a Victim!


Brenda McFarlane April 25, 2012 at 7:32 am

Hi Dwight, nice to see you here! I am not convinced the current problems that Mexico is dealing with poses enormous threat to American travelers. Certainly it is possible I might find myself at the wrong place at the wrong time but the same could be said here. Mind you, when in a different culture from my own, I find it difficult to read the signals of a situation or place accurately and would agree that I am naturally less able to avoid a bad situation.


Dwight Christensen April 29, 2012 at 1:33 pm

You are correct that many Americans manage to stay away from the criminal element in Mexico and have no problems. I guess some of us are just bigger targets than others! There still is significant criminal activity going on ( follow the news) and I have discovered there are so many interesting places right here in the US that I did not know even existed. One would never be able to visit all the interesting, educational and historical sites here in the United States in a lifetime. I think I will spend my money and energy exploring my own back yard!

Best wishes to you there in OB, enjoy your articles


malcolm migacz April 24, 2012 at 9:49 am

i feel like a criminal when i cross the border, why don’t I go camping in the USA? Then i remember, oh yeah Mexico is cheaper. So i pay for my apparent lésine, with traffic that is criminal as me : the destruction of the air with 5 hours of carbon emisisons and the need to support the corporation, big oil .


JEC April 24, 2012 at 2:37 pm

People have died in those lines – no joke. After my father was overcome by exhaust fumes I checked it out. Question is – why was Tecate closed? It has had posted operating hours for decades. A call to that Congressman?


Brenda McFarlane April 25, 2012 at 7:12 am

JEC- You’re right, the people working the border crossing lines are breathing filth. I called Jackie Wasiluk who is the Press Officer for San Diego & Imperial County to find out more about the closure but she did not call me back. Mind you, I only tried the once because of scheduling issues…something to be pursued.


Al M May 5, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Note that the photo shows San Ysidro crossing – not Otay.


PabloD July 25, 2012 at 4:29 pm

I just sat in line at the SY crossing for nearly 5 hours Sunday Jul 15th, 2012. The US government is really putting its own citizens in jeopardy by creating these enormous lines. We could not find the end of the line and Tijuana police were looking for bribes to allow us to enter the line. Needless to say, we did not pay because of fear that it could be a trap so we searched around and finally found it nearly a mile away. We felt very vulnerable at the time and I am sure the Mexican Tourism Board or the US Customs does not like the situation, but until there is a massacre at the border like what just happened in Colorado or a terrorist attack against us sitting ducks in line, no one with do shit. Sad. I love Mexico and the USA!


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