By Meg Olson
When members of the ad hoc border committee met with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) staff recently they got some good news for potentially smoother flow at the border this summer.
According to Point Roberts Taxpayers Association representative Mark Robbins, when that committee met May 3 port director George Gibson said the commercial lane booth is now being staffed Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. This means commercial entries won’t have to park and go into the building, which has in the past led to obstructions of the NEXUS lane at peak times.
Gibson said he has been working to get the port fully staffed with permanent officers, and hopes to meet that goal by April 2018, “which makes it easier to supervise and standardize conduct,” according to Robbins’ retelling.
Electronic signage to allow port staff to reconfigure which lanes are for NEXUS, commercial and regular traffic has been approved for some time but timing on their installation has not been established. At a town hall meeting on the Point in 2010, CBP assistant area port director Jamie Rector said the signs would be installed “in a few years,” allowing the commercial lane to become a NEXUS lane as needed to handle demand.
Extended hours for the NEXUS lanes will go into effect on Memorial Day weekend. The lane will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. entering the U.S. until Labor Day. Canadian NEXUS hours are now on summer times, meaning northbound traffic can access NEXUS from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Committee members have established an email address, PRborderQA@gmail.com, and invited the community to share concerns or questions that they can bring to their meetings with border personnel. So far, Robbins said, there has been one concern about bringing in cut flowers after one officer twice warned a traveler they were not allowed. Gibson and supervisors clarified that cut flowers with no dirt are generally allowed. However, “an officer might shake the flowers to see if any insects fell off,” in which case they would be disallowed and destroyed.
Finally, committee members repeated concerns that CBP officers avoid any actions or statements that “might harm economic activity,” Robbins said, such as making disparaging remarks about available retail services. The Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce visitor’s booth at the community center will open on June 17 and be manned from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends, committee members said, with information about local services. They are hopeful officers will direct visitors there for information.