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Officials say border closure would hurt Arizona agriculture, tourism

(Getty Images Photo/Mario Tama)

PHOENIX — Officials say Arizona’s economy would take a hit if President Donald Trump follows through on his threat to shut down the U.S.-Mexico border, especially in the areas of agriculture and tourism.

Facing a surge of Central American migrants trying to enter the U.S., Trump last week threatened to seal the border if Mexico did not immediately halt all illegal immigration into the U.S.

“Hopefully it doesn’t have to happen at all,” Julie Murphree, spokeswoman for the Arizona Farm Bureau, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.

“We know there’s some big challenges on the immigration side, also, but certainly there would be an economic impact.”

Felipe Garcia, executive vice president of Visit Tucson, agreed.

“It would have a huge impact in our economy and all of our border economies and the state of the Arizona,” he told KTAR News.

Murphree said Mexico purchases nearly $200 million of Arizona’s agricultural exports, including produce and beef.

But on the flip side, she said, Mexico helps provide Arizonans with out-of-season produce that consumers have become used to purchasing all year round.

“If you go to the border and you ever see what we import, it’s a lot of fruits and vegetables,” she said.

“And part of that’s a seasonal issue. We just wrapped up the winter harvest season in Yuma, so now we need to lean on California and certainly Mexico for certain of our fruits and vegetables.”

Garcia said about 23 million Mexico nationals visit Arizona each year, and then spend close to $1 billion in the Tucson metro area alone.

“So imagine the impact that it will have on the retail, on hotels, on restaurants, but on every single individual in the community, because when people from Mexico come to spend money here, they pay sales tax,” Garcia said.

“So they’re helping pay for our police, our fire, our libraries, our roads, so again, the impact goes to every single individual in our community.”

He said events like Easter and spring break travel help Arizona transition from high tourism in the winter to a summer slowdown, but a border closure would prevent that.

“We understand … there’s problems and challenges at the border, there’s been thousands of detentions, but by closing the border, you will not solve the situation, you will not solve the issue,” he said.

“You will make it even worse because not only are you going to be stopping certain individuals from crossing, but those that are coming legally into the U.S. and also many U.S. nationals that are going south of the border.”

While Trump on Tuesday did not back off the idea completely, he said he was pleased with steps Mexico had taken in recent days and renewed his calls for Congress to make changes he contends would solve the problem.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross and Peter Samore and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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