Community activist believes closure of Lukeville Port of Entry could result in border town deaths

Dec 6, 2023, 4:25 AM

A U.S. Border Patrol agent counts immigrants after they spent the night in the desert on December 0...

A U.S. Border Patrol agent counts immigrants after they spent the night in the desert on December 05, 2023 in Lukeville, Arizona. A surge of immigrants passing through openings in the border wall cut by smugglers has overwhelmed U.S. immigration authorities, causing them to shut down the international port of entry in Lukeville, so that officers can help process the new arrivals. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — A community activist who works with border towns believes there could be deaths if the Lukeville Port of Entry in Arizona doesn’t reopen soon.

Aaron Cooper, executive director of the International Sonoran Desert Alliance, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad Show on Tuesday that border town residents who rely on services in both the United States and Mexico could suffer the most.

“If it’s the difference between a 15-minute trip and a 10-hour round trip, I think people very well could die because if you’re trying to get to dialysis, a 10-hour round trip is not really feasible for you,” Cooper said.

Why is the Lukeville Port of Entry closed?

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. The closure started Monday.

Cooper sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday urging officials to keep the port of entry open.

Those who make the daily commute between Ajo, Arizona, and Sonoyta, Mexico, aren’t able to do so in an efficient manner with the entry closed, a point that sticks with Cooper.

“There are people that receive medications at P.O. boxes in Lukeville that live south of the border,” Cooper said. “They go up north, get their medications and go back south.

“So there’s all sorts of unintended consequences that are going to happen from closing this port of entry.”

When will the Lukeville Port of Entry reopen?

A timeline to reopen the port of entry is unknown.

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.

Cooper said he’s also unsure when the situation could be over.

“We have no information,” Cooper said. “Local communities were not given any previous warning and there’s been no local community engagement to even assess impacts from closing the port of entry.”

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Community activist believes closure of Lukeville Port of Entry could result in border town deaths