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How the Lukeville Port of Entry closure will affect tourism in Rocky Point

As the flood of migrants arriving at our southern border from all over the world has reached record highs, Border Patrol officials are prioritizing their resources.

That came to a head at the Arizona border crossing in Lukeville this week when U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced it would close the point of entry there as officials continue to struggle to process high numbers of migrants border-wide. 

This closure is not just a procedural move — it’s a big problem that’s having ripple effects throughout the state. And that’s largely because the Pima County crossing is the main route from Arizona to “Arizona’s beach,” Puerto Peñasco, or Rocky Point. With that port of entry closed, Arizonans will have to drive an extra several hours to get to the beloved beach town.

Now, lawmakers on all sides are sounding the alarm — warning of the economic ripple effects of closing this crossing — and many Republican lawmakers are calling on Gov. Katie Hobbs to send National Guard troops to the border to supplement Border Patrol agents. She has said she will not do that — at least not yet. 

Hector Vazquez is the general manager of Las Palomas Resort in Rocky Point — the largest in the city. The Show spoke with him about how much they rely on tourists from Arizona.

Interview highlights

HECTOR VAZQUEZ: For us — to be honest — it's like a big hit because we know it's a problem. The immigration is a problem. But right now it's a federal problem on both sides of the border.

So the Mexico federal government and U.S. government need to agree on something and because we are in the middle of the politics, we get closed. And now we're just start getting a lot of cancellations. We just start getting bad media and in the end, we are a little town, a poor town of 65,000 population, but 10,000 families of the 65,000 are living directly or indirectly of the tourism.

The conversation on the Arizona side of the border has been interesting since this happened. It's been very political. There's a lot of finger pointing, a lot of calls for change. What's reaction been like in Rocky point? What's the conversation like happening in your community right now? What are people saying?

VAZQUEZ: Obviously we have a shared community, we have more than 5,000 Americans that invest in condominiums and houses up here in Rocky Point. And, obviously, they blame the government for how they close the border to process illegal [migrants] and they cannot process the legal [migrants] but the main point is, right now if we want a solution, Mexico needs to help in controlling all those migrants in our land.

And obviously the U.S. government needs to open. It is not only affecting Mexico's economy or Puerto Peñasco's economy. This is also affecting at least these 5,000 people who bought a house or a condo here and rent it and probably, they will not have money to pay the mortgage.

The tourism economy there is obviously incredibly important and will directly impact, as you said, 10,000 families. The last time you were on the show, we talked about how the economy in Rocky Point is directly affected and on the string of what happens on the border, what happens in the Arizona and the U.S. economy? Are you having flashbacks to COVID-19 and the devastating economic impact that happened in Rocky Point then?

VAZQUEZ: I have had that flashback and unfortunately, this is worse, than COVID-19. If you remember the border was not closed. There was a permit for Americans to come or essential travel. Right now, it's 100% closed and 100% closed for something that humans can control.

COVID-19 was a pandemic, and here is something, between governments where they're not put in an agreement and they are affecting our community.

What happened to the economy there then to your business, then to your community? What are your concerns?

VAZQUEZ: My biggest worry is that if this shutdown extends more than two or three weeks then small businesses close. Definitely because they don't have enough resources to maintain payroll stuff and everything without an income.

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.