Mexican police warn US-bound travelers of extortion in border crossing lines

SAN YSIDRO, Calif. -- Mexican authorities are warning U.S.-bound travelers about potential danger at ports of entry ahead of the holiday weekend after Tijuana police made 35 arrests this week.

Police say those arrested were a result of people being aggressive and extorting drivers waiting in the wrong lanes near the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

"They were super aggressive and then they were also super aggressive as far as how much they wanted," said Steve de la Torre, who experienced what police have been cautioning drivers about.

De la Torre said it can be confusing figuring out which lane to get in when driving back into the U.S. from Mexico.

"The signage just stopped, just absolutely stopped. So, it was just flip a coin on which way to go and we ended up in the regular lane," said de la Torre.

There are regular lanes at ports of entry and those marked SENTRI for people who have been pre-approved and paid a fee through a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program. Those lanes typically come with a 30 minute wait, while the others can take multiple hours.

De la Torre says he was approached by a group that offered to move barricades so he could get over into a SENTRI lane. As it turned out, De la Torre was directed into yet another incorrect lane. He said he was soon met with yet another person offering “help” that came with another cost.

"It was not only nerve-racking but it was a little expensive crossing the border on top of it, you know, considering we had these SENTRI passes in the first place, which was kind of ironic," said de la Torre.

Tijuana’s Director of Public Safety further confirmed to the San Diego Union-Tribune the cases had been getting more violent, with some people even posing as security or police when demanding money.

Mexican police will have a stronger presence at both the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa ports of entry this holiday weekend and are urging drivers to be cautious.

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