The first unstaffed computerised Southwest border station opens in an attempt to improve US-Mexico cultural relations.
Computers at the new $3.7 million self-service stop will scan citizenship documents embedded with computer chips and facilitate live interviews through video and audio links to a staffed station in El Paso.
Federal officials believe that most of the roughly 15,000 to 20,000 people expected to cross the border during the first year will be US visitors buying Mexican food and souvenirs. But officials also expect the automated checkpoint to boost the US economy as more tourists will visit the national park and book longer stays, which would generate additional revenue for Texas.
The move comes after the Homeland Security Department, National Park Service and White House agreed to ease post-September 11 security measures so pedestrians at the Big Bend National Park could cross the Rio Grande River to visit Boquillas, Mexico. Previous measures, which were introduced in 2002, saw the US closing the original crossing station, which forced visitors to travel more than 100 miles for another border station.
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