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Arizona politicians push back on Lukeville Port of Entry closure

Arizona’s top politicians are requesting the federal government’s help to keep U.S. ports of entry open on the state’s border with Mexico.

United States Customs and Border Protection announced Friday that the Lukeville Port of Entry — which Arizonans pass through to get to Puerto Peñasco — is closing indefinitely on Monday so that agents can be reassigned to assist Border Patrol with processing an influx of migrants. 

Gov. Katie Hobbs issued a joint statement with Arizona’s U.S. senators requesting that the ports of entry remain open. As of Friday afternoon, there was no response from the federal government.

“This is an unacceptable outcome that further destabilizes our border, risks the safety of our communities, and damages our economy by disrupting trade and tourism. The Federal Government must act swiftly to maintain port of entry operations,” the statement said. "Our offices are in constant contact with CBP leadership, Border Patrol Agents and CBP Officers, Mexican officials, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, and leadership at DHS as we monitor the situation. Enough is enough — Arizona deserves real solutions to our border crisis,” it continued.

CBP announced the port would close on Friday, citing “ increased levels of migrant encounters at the Southwest Border, fueled by smugglers peddling disinformation to prey on vulnerable individuals.”  Earlier this week, the agency said it was restricting trafficthrough Lukeville.

Members of the business community who were caught off-guard by the announcement say the decision will have a negative economic impact.  

“I think it’s going to have a pretty significant impact for both sides. It is going to impact people whose plans included going down there. Right now, we don’t have a sense for when that might open,” said Todd Sanders, CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.

Arizona Republican Congressman Juan Ciscomani and state Sen. TJ. Shope (R-Coolidge) advocated for assistance from the Arizona National Guard following CBP’s latest announcement.

On Friday, Ciscomani wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, urging him to work with Hobbs and the Department of Defense to mobilize the Arizona National Guard, freeing up CBP and border patrol agents.

According to Ciscomani  and Fox News reporter Bill Melugin — CBP had more than 9,400 migrant encounters in a single day this week. 

Shope’s wife is currently in Puerto Peñasco. He is concerned about Arizonans who will have to find new ways back starting Monday.

“They’re gonna have to drive on roads that I’ve never driven on, you know, throughout more interior Mexico to come back, and I'm not sure — I can’t speak to the safety of those corridors at all,” Shope said. 

By declaring a state of emergency, Hobbs can mobilize the National Guard, but she didn’t mention that in her joint statement. Hobbs’ spokesperson Christian Slater said they won’t say more at the moment.

It’s not only politicians who oppose CBP’s plan.

Jaime Chamberlain is a distributor of Mexican fruits and vegetables based in Nogales. He says that closing the port of entry is an ineffective strategy that will negatively impact the flow of commerce, security and traffic.

“What does that do to your rest of your ports in Arizona?” Chamberlain said. “It puts more stress on your ports in San Luis, in Douglas, in Nogales, Naco. Puts more stress on those ports of entry. How do you think the lines are going to be starting on Monday? You tell me.”

KJZZ's Tom Maxedon contributed to this report.

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Camryn Sanchez is a field correspondent at KJZZ covering everything to do with state politics.