Major Arizona border crossing to close, with staffing redirected to catch migrants

Dec 1, 2023, 1:59 PM | Updated: Dec 4, 2023, 6:53 am

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers inspect a vehicle at the Lukeville Port of Entry on the...

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers inspect a vehicle at the Lukeville Port of Entry on the Arizona-Mexico border. The port will be closed until further notice starting Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, CBP announced. (Customs and Border Protection Photo)

(Customs and Border Protection Photo)

PHOENIX — U.S. officials are closing the Lukeville Port of Entry on the Arizona-Mexico border indefinitely to better deal with a surge of illegal crossings.

All pedestrian and vehicle traffic at the crossing will be suspended starting Monday until further notice, Customs and Border Protection announced Friday.

Personnel who usually man the crossing will be redirected to help the Border Patrol, which is part of CBP, take migrants into custody. The Lukeville staffing level was recently reduced for the same reason. One of two bridges to vehicles at the Eagle Pass, Texas, crossing has also been closed.

“In response to increased levels of migrant encounters at the Southwest Border, fueled by smugglers peddling disinformation to prey on vulnerable individuals, CBP is surging all available resources to expeditiously and safely process migrants. CBP will continue to prioritize our border security mission as necessary in response to this evolving situation,” the agency said in a press release.

How are Arizona politicians reacting to Lukeville closure?

U.S. Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, in conjunction with Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs, issued the following joint statement in response to the CBP plan:

Arizona border communities are in crisis and our men and women on the front lines do not have the resources they need to manage the overwhelming numbers of migrants crossing the border. With over 2,000 migrants coming across the Tucson sector daily, CBP has announced they will temporarily close the Lukeville, Arizona Port of Entry and redirect all officers – who would otherwise manage the everyday travel of workers and tourists that businesses rely on and trade that drives our economy forward – to instead help U.S. Border Patrol process migrants.

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, get the border under control, keep Arizona communities safe, and ensure the humane treatment of migrants.

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. The Administration must send immediate resources to secure the border and help our communities. Partisan politicians who parrot talking points while watching the border further deteriorate must reject the echo chamber and work with us to get something done and keep our communities safe.

Rep. Juan Ciscomani, a southern Arizona Republican, said he asked the Biden administration to deploy the Arizona National Guard in a statement issued Sunday:

Every community along our border lives in sync with their counterparts across country lines. Tomorrow’s [Monday’s] closure of the Lukeville Port of Entry — a major hub for tourism and everyday travel alike — will hurt every part of life on both sides of the border. From grocery shopping to attending school to visiting a doctor, life as we know it will halt while CBP is forced to pause normal operations and focus entirely on the current migrant surge.

On Friday, I asked the Biden administration to deploy the Arizona National Guard in order to prevent situations just like this. I am urging the administration to fulfill this request immediately before we see any more unintended consequences cripple our communities.

Where on Arizona-Mexico border is Lukeville Port of Entry?

Lukeville is within the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector at the southern terminus of Highway 85, which starts in Buckeye and crosses through Gila Bend on the way to Mexico. It is the main crossing point for travelers heading between the Phoenix area and the tourist destination of Puerto Peñasco (Rocky Point).

The next closest major border crossings are more than 200 miles away in either direction: the Nogales Port of Entry south of Tucson and the San Luis Port of Entry near Yuma.

Information about wait times at the U.S. border crossings with Mexico and Canada is amiable on the CBP website.

What else is being done to address surge in illegal crossings?

On Sunday, Chief Patrol Agent John Modlin announced that the Tucson Sector staff will scale back on social media activity temporarily as part of the increased focus on border enforcement.

“At this time, all available personnel are needed to address the unprecedented flow. The social media team will return once the situation permits,” Modlin said in a Facebook post.

“We will continue to post our week in review statistics, demonstrating the continued efforts of our agents and staff.”

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Major Arizona border crossing to close, with staffing redirected to catch migrants