NEXUS tweaking should speed up enrollment process
By Meg Olson
their first two weeks of operation the NEXUS enrollment
center at Pacific Highway processed just over 600 applications,
a rate below initial estimates for weekly processing, but
Were making improvements by the hour, said Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) supervisor Nicholas Ochoa. The processings getting quicker as the inspectors get more familiar with it. Ochoa said tweaking the enrollment process will also help speed things up. They have scrapped initial plans to notify people of interviews by letter, opting instead for phone scheduling. It could take two weeks for a letter to get to houses right across the border, he pointed out.
From June 18 to July 1, INS figures show 572 applicants have been approved and issued NEXUS cards. Canadians made up 81 percent of those approved but only 63 percent of the 32 applicants rejected. Two applicants who were approved and issued cards have had those cards revoked after the INS received information from another agency indicating they were not elegible. There are an additional 872 applications entered into the database on the U.S. side waiting to have interviews set.
While district chief of inspections Ron Hays has said at several meetings on the NEXUS system that Point Roberts applicants would get processing priority in the U.S. enrollment center, Ochoa said that wasnt the case. Nobodys getting priority or special privilege, he said. We do them in the order they come in.
Acting chief of inspections Jan Pete said while there was no priority given to Point Roberts applications on the Canadian side, the U.S processing center policy was to try and pick out Point Roberts applicants by zip code. Mr. Hays is adamant that we are giving Point Roberts priority, she said.
Updated numbers from the Canadian processing center were not available. As of last Monday they had received 30,000 applications and were getting over 1,000 new applications a day.
On June 25 they were processing applications received June 11, and were going through about 250 per day, according to Canada Customs chief of client services at Pacific Highway Glenn Bonnett.
Interviews and card issuance are taking from 25 to 40 minutes, according to INS inspections assistant Ron Shelton. The enrollment office at the Pacific Highway port of entry is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., six days a week and has 10 terminals. Hays initially predicted up to 250 applicants could be issued cards a day, once the center was up and running. It should be several thousand a month coming through, said INS national chief of inspections Tom Campbell on a visit to Blaine just prior to NEXUS lanes opening. Shelton said reality wasnt quite so speedy. My calculations dont match that number, he said. Pete said current numbers might not meet anticipated processing volumes, but that the 250 per day target was not unreasonable. I think we can expect to get there, she said. Right now its a learning curve.
Shelton added some time was being spent trying to reunite families whose applications were separated on their way through processing. If we dont have the applications in our hand we cant make the appointment but if they call us to see if we have the additional family members we will make every effort to find them so they can all be seen together, he said. Shelton said on July 1 that they were beginning to set appointments for applications received between June 8 and June 11. The NEXUS lane is open limited hours until enrollment increases.
Pete said the enrollment process was still in the ramping-up stage and would get faster and more consistent. We need to maybe do things a little differently to speed things up, she said. We expected to be slower at first. When you have a human element, and were still getting new people who need training, you will need to tweak this and that. Im hopeful when we get through with the tweaks well just get faster and faster.
Visiting the NEXUS enrollment center July 1, U.S. congressman Rick Larsen said that once the initial backlog of applicants cleared the system and the lanes were full, it would help make the border safer and more open. NEXUS is going to help us insure a more secure border while insuring trade and tourism can continue, he said..