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Cleansing a Record for the SENTRI Pass

The following article appeared in the Baja Times 

Cleansing A Record For The Sentri Pass

“A dream without a plan is nothing but a dream”
Bill Smith

By: Roberta Giesea
STAFF WRITER


“We need border security,” or “Open borders should be closed,” or “Our borders need to be strengthened,” are comments made in the United States, probably by people who never had to wait at a border crossing for over an hour to cross into the United States from Mexico. The wait can be annoying, wasting precious time and jarring frazzled nerves. Juggling a car’s position to prevent another car from cutting into your lane ahead takes on-edge concentration and quick reaction like a greedy seagull’s effort to shove hungry pals away from food. The wait does not bring the best out of anyone. You know the car at the booth ahead is getting the border guard’s full Monty inquisition before being sent to secondary because your line isn’t moving. In fact, it’s been five minutes since the last time the line inched forward. “I got into the wrong lane, again,” you mutter to yourself as you try to calm your nerves. “Who says we don’t have enough border protection?”

The above scenario is an initiation that everyone who moves to Northern Baja California, Mexico has to experience to become a seasoned resident. “It is far easier to enter into Mexico from the United States, than it is to cross into the United States from Mexico,” some lament.

Several people, both Mexican and US citizens, cross the border daily to commute to work in the States. Some get up at 4 am to miss clogged border crossing during commuting hours. “The best time to cross is just after the commuter hours before the extra lanes are closed between 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.,” a seasoned border-crosser advises.

In 1995, the US government offered an alternative to the long border delays. It is the Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection, known as SENTRI.
The SENTRI program, first implemented at Otay Mesa, California, (now in 9 ports of entries), is “a land border-crossing program that provides expedited CBP (Customs and Border Protection) processing for pre-approved low-risk travelers.” Those who have no criminal records are fingerprinted and approved for a SENTRI Pass allowing a quick pass through the border. If the lane is clear, there is no wait. However, at heavy travel times when normal lanes take over an hour, the SENTRI lane may take a half hour to cross. The SENTRI Pass alleviates the overwhelming aggravation of waiting hours to cross in non-Sentri lanes. The SENTRI Pass is a valuable possession. Rico says, “You can take anything you want from my wallet, but don’t you dare take my SENTRI Pass. It’s my most prized possession.” He’s not the only one who feels that way.

Tightening of regulations and revising original policy since 9/11 has caused a negative ripple through American residents living in Baja Calif, Mexico. Every minor infraction from failing to pay a traffic ticket to getting into a bar room brawl can cause a person to be denied a SENTRI Pass. Drugs and alcohol convictions cause problems in getting the SENTRI pass. A 60 year old prominent doctor who was standing in a street with alcohol in a paper cup when he was 23 years old can’t get a Sentri Pass.

“I lost my SENTRI Pass after using it for 4 years to get to work,” says a fifty year old grandmother who crosses the border every day. “I have one blip on my record that occurred in 1964. I never went to jail and have been a solid citizen, so why am I being punished for something I did 40 years ago?” she laments. “It wouldn’t be so bad if I had never been issued a Sentri Pass, but to lose it after I’ve proven myself to be responsible really makes me angry. It puts a burden on me I don’t deserve!”

“The SENTRI Pass is a privilege, not a right,” a former Border Patrol and current FBI agent answered when told that over 20,000 United States citizens lost their SENTRI passes two years ago because of a one time minor infraction on their records thirty or forty years ago. Congressmen and other government representatives have been less than sympathetic as some appeal to them for help.

Bill Smith is an example of a person who has tenacity to clear his record in order to be reinstated into the SENTRI program. Twenty-five years ago he received a drunk driving ticket in California. His SENTRI Pass was pulled two years ago when the requirements tightened. Since then, he’s been determined to clear his record. He wants his SENTRI Pass back.

After many failed attempts, Bill finally won the battle. “On the 7th of this month, I got my SENTRI Pass back after two years of writing to every government official in the country, from the President on down. No one would help me, except me, myself!” “No matter what you do or who you know at Sentri, you will fail,” says Bill who couldn’t be stopped. “7 DUI’s showed up on my FBI record but none appeared on the California records since California records are cleared after 8 years. I contacted The California Department of Justice to ask the FBI to expunge my records. When my FBI record was cleared, I could re-apply for my Sentri Pass. The process took about 10 weeks.”

The following is the procedure Bill recommends to those who committed a state crime in California prior to 1982:

1) Look up Live Scan in the phone book. If you can not find the phone number for your area, call the court records and they can give it to you.
2) Live Scan will cost about $65. They will fingerprint you and send them to Sacramento with all your information.
3) Live Scan will be sent to the Department of Justice in Sacramento. Once they review it you will get a letter stating what is on your record. If it is clean, you need to call Robert Santo who is the assistant to Jerry Brown in the Department of Justice. His phone number is 916-227-3364. Tell him you are applying for a Sentri Pass. The letter from the state was clean but Live Scan still has the record on it. Ask him if it is possible to remove it off the FBI records because it is so old. California doesn’t keep records on file after 8 years, but the Feds keep them indefinitely. It is most important to get the Federal records cleared. Ask Robert Santo to ask the FBI to expunge the record.
4) Call Robert Santo after 3 weeks to verify that your records have been expunged.
5) If your FBI record is clear, apply for a SENTRI Pass on your computer.
Go to www.cbp.gov. Click on the “Travel” tab on the top right side of the screen.
Click on “Trusted Traveler Programs” tab on the left side of the screen.
Click on “SENTRI or On-Line Application for NEXUS and SENTRI” in the center of the screen and follow the prompts to enroll as a user. It will cost $25 for an application fee.

Note: If your violation occurred in a state other than California, contact the State Department of Justice of that particular state. Check your state’s time frame policy for dropping state conviction records. Keep in mind that Federal crimes will always be a problem.

Bill says, “I know this information will help thousands of people. For a fee of $25 I will provide a more detailed fact sheet that will help them through the cleansing process.” His email address is: bill0351@aol.com and phone number: 909-338-1673.

The SENTRI program has saved hours of time for those who live south of the border. It has received numerous awards as a “government best-practice” approach and demonstrates the government’s commitment to utilizing the right solutions for border management needs. Upgrading the program continues as 129,000 travelers from both sides of the border, enrolled in the SENTRI program, await new cards. It is recommended that SENTRI pass holders review their files online to verify current addresses in order to receive their new cards via snail mail. Questions can be answered at CBP.gov website or 202-344-1770.

Bill Smith says, “A dream without a plan is nothing but a dream.” Now is the time to make a plan to clear your record so you can become a low risk SENTRI Pass traveler. He knows because his dream finally came true. . .because he had a plan!
Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2008 1:00 PM by Herb Kinsey

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