US citizens being fined thousands of dollars, detained for hours after using wrong lane at border (while rest of border wide open)


CALIFORNIA/MEXICO BORDER –Entering into the country by driving through the United States Customs and Border Protection is normally a hassle, some travelers are reporting it has been an expensive endeavor as of late. Those travelers reported entering the country through the wrong lane which caused them to allegedly be detained for hours and receive up to $5,000 in fines.

Recently, a pair of Los Angeles residents took their frustrations to the media, speaking about how they accidentally entered the wrong lane coming into the United States from Mexico and the seemingly excessive response from federal authorities. Those people claim that they were subjected to being handcuffed to metal benches for hours before receiving fines of up to $5,000.

KTTV-TV spoke to one of those residents, identified only as Rose, about her alleged experience while coming back into the country from Mexico. She said that she accidentally entered the Sentri Lane at the Tijuana/San Ysidro Port of Entry and once inside the lane, it is impossible to pull out of it.

Rose reported she and her companion found themselves in the lane after using their GPS to navigate the way home from their trip to Mexico. She said:

“When we put in the address to go back home, it basically told us to go through a certain way, I guess Sentri is the fastest way to get to the border.”

While it may be the fastest way to get back to the border as the crow flies, it certainly was not the fastest after they ran into federal authorities. Rose alleges that federal authorities ordered her and her companion out of the vehicle and “shackled” her to a metal bench for “three hours.” She told the news outlet:

“They shackled me to this metal bench as I waited for three hours.”

Another resident, Ana Salazar, spoke to the news outlet and seemingly confirmed Rose’s account. She said that she suffered a similar situation and the incident was the most humiliating she had ever experienced. She said:

“I had never been humiliated in my life the way I was humiliated that afternoon.”

Federal agents from Customs and Border Patrol were asked by KTTV-TV about the incidents and while they did not comment on whether or not Salazar, Rose, and others like her were actually detained and handcuffed to metal benches, they did report some fines associated with violating the lane.

The fine for using the lane improperly is $5,000, but they reportedly do not issue those fines out to people until they have committed two previous violations, something that Bernardo Montenegro, yet another person making a similar allegation, and his girlfriend say simply is not true.

Montenegro spoke to KTTV regarding their experience with the Sentri Lane and reported they never received any warnings or notice of the violation until they received a $10,000 fine. He said that no one ever alleged he had done anything more than going into the “wrong lane.” He told KTTV:

“We just got into the wrong lane. We didn’t do anything else wrong but get into the wrong lane.”

Salazar reported hearing a federal agent enter the area where he had been handcuffed to a metal bench and announcing that they had fined someone else $5,000. The remark left Salazar thinking that the hefty fines were nothing more than a way to generate federal income. He said:

“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. Obviously, it was someone else that went through the same thing I did. So, I just thought to myself, ‘Oh, this is just a business.’”

As of now, there is no way to know how many people have allegedly been excessively punished for using the wrong lane, however, there is one person who is pushing to help out those that have been, California attorney John Manley. Manley spoke to KTTV about the issue and seemingly believes that the incidents are actually happening. He said:

“[Federal authorities] basically shackle you to a bench for two, three hours. 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.”

Manley has not reported on how many clients he has currently involved in this situation nor how many he has heard of as of yet.

As of now, no one from CBP has not commented on the claims of excessive punishment or any of those allegedly handcuffed to a mental bench.

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