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Official: Closing southern border would be ‘catastrophic’ to Arizona’s economy

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers walks along a wall at the border between Mexico and the United States, as seen from San Diego on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Greg Bull)

PHOENIX — If President Donald Trump permanently closes the U.S.-Mexico border like he has threatened, it would do major damage to Arizona’s economy, according to a trade official.

“Trade with Mexico has an enormous effect on Arizona’s economy,” Glenn Hamer, president with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“It would be catastrophic to the Arizona economy if the border was shut down.”

Trump, in a tweet on Monday, threatened to “close the Border permanently” if Mexico does not send a caravan of Central American migrants “back to their countries.”

But Hamer said he does not believe that will happen, pointing to Arizona’s $15.5 billion trading relationship with Mexico each year.

“Mexico far and away is Arizona’s largest trading partner,” he added. “We export more goods to Mexico than the next four countries combined.”

Thousands of migrants arrived to Tijuana in recent days in an attempt to apply for asylum in the United States. But a chaotic clash at the border that involved choking tear gas fired by U.S. agents left them sullen and dejected, and pushed them to urgently explore other options.

The waiting list for asylum applications already had some 3,000 people on it before the caravan arrived in Tijuana. With U.S. officials processing fewer than 100 claims a day, the wait time for the recent arrivals stands to take months.

Despite the border security challenges posed by the migrant caravan, Hamer said the U.S. and Mexican governments are “aligned in wanting to address the migrant problem.

“We need a secure border and a lawful process by which immigrants and refugees can come to the country,” he added.

“I expect the incoming (Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s) administration and the Trump administration to work closely and constructively together to work on the migrant issue while we keep trade humming.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross contributed to this report. 

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