NEXUS community meeting set for June 11

Published on Thu, May 23, 2002 by Meg Olson

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NEXUS community meeting set for June 11

By Meg Olson

Local border users got to see the first on-the-ground signs of the NEXUS commuter lane system as traffic was routed around the east side of the Peace Arch port of entry on Monday.

“They’re starting construction to put the NEXUS lane in where the PACE lane was,” said Immigration and Naturalization Service district chief of inspections Ron Hays. “They’re going to have to trench under all the lanes to run the cables across.”

Hays said a town hall meeting was planned for June 11 as the first step in signing up NEXUS participants. “The purpose of these meetings is to inform the community about the NEXUS program, the enrollment process and conditions for enrolling,” Hays said. “We want to answer people’s questions about how PACE and NEXUS are different. A good example would be people don’t need to be in any specific car. As long as they’re enrolled they can be in a rental car.”

While Hays said where and when enrollment forms would be available for submission to Canada Customs for initial processing wasn’t determined yet. “We know we won’t be able to complete the enrollment on our side until our enrollment office is open,” he said, adding that the target date to open that office at the Pacific Highway crossing was June 26.

Prospective program participants will send their application and a fee of $50 U.S. or $80 CDN to Canada Customs who would forward the application to U.S. authorities. Those given preliminary approval by both countries would be called to the Pacific Highway enrollment office for an interview, photograph and two-finger fingerprint check. If given final approval they would be issued a radio-tagged card, valid for five years, which would allow them to use the NEXUS lanes.

Hays said the INS did not have plans at this time to charge for children under 18 to participate in the program, but everyone except for possibly infants would be issued a card. There would also be no charge to issue replacement cards if a participant lost theirs, though that didn’t mean there wouldn’t be a wait to have one issued.

In other border news, Hays said policies were changing as the INS reviewed how they do business following tightened security after September 11. “We’ve been re-evaluating all our policies to make sure they comply with the law,” Hays said. “One of the things we’ve been doing that we shouldn’t have been is letting part-time students come to the United States.” He explained that the practice of allowing students from B.C. to travel to Bellingham for night school or summer school, for example, was a violation of federal immigration laws. “They are very specific in saying they need to be going to a full time course of study,” Hays said, adding they also needed special INS documentation. Under new policies, part-time students can’t cross the border to go to class, Hays said, and it has taken some by surprise. “There have been people turned away,” he said. “Everyone you talk to says it shouldn’t be that way but we have to go with what the law says until congress does something about it.” .

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