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American Citizens Returning from Mexico Get Detained, Fined Thousands for How They Crossed the Border

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What’s this? Try to enter the U.S. at the southern border and it will cost you $5,000? And you’ll be detained?

Did President Joe Biden’s recent visit to the border result in a new immigration policy?

Nope.

Just get in the wrong lane of traffic entering from Tijuana and you’ll get busted. Especially if you’re an American.

That has happened repeatedly to U.S. residents who unknowingly got into an express lane, known as the Sentri lane, that allows for pre-approved entry into the U.S. at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, according to KTTV-TV.

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Enter the Sentri unauthorized and risk getting fined, threatened with having your car impounded, and chained to a bench.

“They say, ‘Yep, we’re gonna take your car or we’re gonna fine you $5,000’ for what amounts to being in the wrong lane of traffic,” according to lawyer John Manley, who has handled these kinds of cases.

Border agents, he said, mainly target U.S. citizens.

“I had never been humiliated in my life the way I was humiliated that afternoon,” said Ana Salazar of Pasadena, California.

Is a $5,000 fine an excessive punishment?

“They shackled me to this metal bench as I waited for three hours,” said Rose of Burbank, California.

Bernardo Montenegro of Fontana, California, said, “We just got into the wrong lane. We didn’t do anything else wrong but get into a wrong lane.” His wife, Patricia Caro, said, “They were telling him that they wouldn’t release our vehicle without us paying $5,000.”

Apparently, it’s easy to mistakenly enter the Sentri lane. GPS navigation directs drivers to the lane and there are unclear signs and confusing roundabouts in Tijuana.

Customs and Border Protection officials said fines for unauthorized use of the Sentri lane are only imposed upon a third violation.

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But individuals interviewed by KTTV said they never received a warning and had flagged CBP agents to tell them of their error before reaching the border checkpoint.

Salazar thinks the whole operation is just a fundraising scheme.

“When I was in the office waiting, one of the agents came in and he shouted at everyone else in the office, ‘Oh, we got another $5K,’” she said. “So I just thought to myself, ‘Oh, this is just a business.'”

How ironic that U.S. citizens face such severe consequences for traffic violations at the border while human traffickers and illegal immigrants have the red carpet rolled out for them.

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Mike Landry, PhD, is a retired business professor. He has been a journalist, broadcaster and church pastor. He writes from Northwest Arkansas on current events and business history.
Mike Landry, PhD, is a retired business professor. He has been a journalist, broadcaster and church pastor. He writes from Northwest Arkansas on current events and business history.




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