Closure of Lukeville Port of Entry in Arizona devastating for Puerto Peñasco tourism

Dec 4, 2023, 2:02 PM | Updated: 2:08 pm

File photo of a sign near the beach at Puerto Peñasco, Mexico. Puerto Peñasco tourism screeched t...

Puerto Peñasco tourism screeched to a halt Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, after U.S. border officials closed the main port of entry between Phoenix and the Mexican beach town. (File, PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images)

(File, PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Puerto Peñasco tourism screeched to a halt Monday after U.S. border officials closed the main port of entry between Phoenix and the Mexican town known as “Arizona’s Beach.”

U.S. officials announced plans Friday to close the Lukeville Port of Entry indefinitely so resources could be focused on dealing with a surge of illegal crossings in the area.

Keith Allen of the Peñasco Business Coalition said visitors from Arizona fled Puerto Peñasco over the weekend, before the closure went into effect, to avoid a potentially lengthy detour.

“It has only literally been hours since the border’s been closed this morning, but the town of Peñasco, from what I understand, is totally dead right now,” Allen told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday morning.

Allen, who works in Mexico as director of sales for the Encantame Towers condo development, said there’s been a “slew of cancellations” for upcoming rentals, making Americans who own property in the area “very nervous.”

Why is Puerto Peñasco known as Arizona’s Beach?

The drive from Phoenix to Puerto Peñasco, also known as Rocky Point, typically takes about 3 hours and 45 minutes through the Lukeville crossing at the southern point of State Route 85.

Allen said a majority of the beachfront homes and condos in the Puerto Peñasco area are owned by Americans.

“It is known as Arizona’s Beach,” he said. “And why? Because it’s so close to drive to, it’s more economical.”

With Lukeville closed, the next shortest drive goes through the San Luis Port of Entry, near Yuma, adding about 150 miles and 2-3 hours to the trip, depending on conditions.

On top of that, increased traffic at the San Luis crossing could create additional delays at the border. Travelers can check wait times on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website and plan for delays. The wait was 40-50 minutes longer than average at midday Monday.

“Please be patient with us. We’re doing the best we can with what we have and we’re trying to assist Border Patrol as well,” Edith Serrano, public affairs liaison for CBP, told KTAR News.

How does Lukeville Port of Entry closure hurt Arizonans?

The area around the desert crossing at Lukeville has become a major migration route in recent months, with smugglers dropping off people from countries as diverse as Senegal, India and China. Most of them are walking into the U.S. west of the port of entry through gaps in the wall, then head east toward the official border crossing to surrender to the first agents they see in hopes for a chance at asylum.

CBP didn’t provide a timeline for how long Lukeville would be closed.

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs told reporters Monday morning she was “extremely frustrated” with the situation.

“This is a bad decision that impacts our border security. It hurts our economy because it’s a putting a damper on trade and tourism,” Hobbs said.

Allen said the economic impact of the closure will be felt on both sides of the border because so many Americans own real estate in Puerto Peñasco and rely on rental income.

“If this were to continue, people start putting their units on the market, flooding the market and devaluing everyone’s equity,” he said. “And, so, there’s a huge ripple effect from this closure that I don’t think a lot of people realize.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Heidi Hommel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Closure of Lukeville Port of Entry in Arizona devastating for Puerto Peñasco tourism