A passenger vehicle approaches the Bridge of the Americas crossing in Juarez. (Alberto Tomas Halpern/Newspaper Tree)
The national computer system for Customs and Border Protection or CBP went down this afternoon, causing delays at international crossings throughout the United States.
Delays were reported at El Paso’s international bridges, and as far away as Sarnia in Ontario, Canada.
“We did have a system go down. We went into immediate contingency,” Ruben Jauregui, CBP’s El Paso chief public affairs officer told Newspaper Tree.
According to Jauregui, the system failed at 12:30 pm Mountain time. CBP officers at El Paso’s bridges worked off a backup computer system until the problem was resolved at about 3 pm. Jauregui said he did not know the cause of the malfunction.
“Our office of information technology began working on it immediately,” Jauregui said.
Border crossers in the El Paso region used social media to express their frustration and to ask questions.
“Can someone tell me why the bridges are closed?” one person wrote on Facebook.
“Does anyone know if the international bridges are closed?” another person asked.
Some social media users joked that the bridges were closed due to a bomb threat. Another said they were closed to protest a 16 cent tax hike in Mexico.
Jauregui said CBP officers on El Paso’s bridges did not stop processing vehicles and pedestrians at any time during the system failure.
“We have systems in place that start up when that (national system) goes down. So we continue processing vehicles and pedestrians and commercial trucks,” he said.
Once the system went down, CBP officers had to troubleshoot the computer issues. After it was discovered that the national system was down, CBP officers had to log into their backup computer system to resume inspections.
“What happens is there is going to be a lapse in time from us logging into the system that we have locally. We will stop processing vehicles for three to five minutes,” Jauregui said.
He continued, “Just image your computer freezing. First thing you want to do is reset it. If that doesn’t work, you move to the other system.”
In addition, Jauregui said the backup system is slower, which resulted in inspections being delayed by about two to three minutes per vehicle.
Some people reported a three-hour wait, at El Paso’s Bridge of the Americas, during the system failure.
Jauregui said that while CBP officers were concerned about backed up traffic, security is still their top priority.
“We’re trying to facilitate traffic, but our number one goal is national security. We have to be sure to query the conveyances. We make it as smooth as we possibly can, but of course when our system is two to three minutes slower per vehicle, it will slow up the system.”
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