“I wish Washington could come down” The Mayor of Nogales fears for his city’s economy as wait times at the border double

Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 10:31 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Border crossing times at the state’s southern border have skyrocketed in recent days, causing frustration and worry for the border towns that rely so heavily on the back-and-forth traffic.

A few people traveling from Nogales, Mexico, tell 13 News depending on the time of day; it normally takes around twenty to thirty minutes to pass through the Deconcini Port of Entry in Nogales. However, wait times have more than doubled in recent days, causing travelers driving into the states to have more than an hour wait to cross.

What is the cause behind the increased wait times? According to the Mayor of Nogales, Jorge Maldonado, migrants seeking asylum are stretching border agents thin, causing some to be reassigned to assist with the influx.

“Washington called Friday to U.S. Customs and asked them to shut down half of their lanes at each port,” Maldonado said. “We had half our lanes cut at Deconcini and half of our lanes cut at Mariposa.”

A statement from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirms the recent order.

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s, Office of Field Operations, Tucson Field Office is temporarily supporting the Tucson and Yuma Border Patrol Sectors with processing migrants at various facilities beginning September 16. The support will continue on an as-needed basis. CBP will work to return to normal operations as quickly as feasible.”

A CBP Spokesperson

Maldonaldo said travelers crossing the border by car through both ports of entry are seeing major delays. He said he fears the wait times could hurt a major part of the border town’s economy.

“Washington is worried about the flow of the illegalas-neededs instead of having the preference to the legal crossers,” Maldonado said. “The legal crossers are what sustain our city, they give us a boost to the city’s economy.”

“The Office of Field Operations will assist the U.S. Border Patrol in processing migrants who have arrived between the ports of entry. These efforts will focus primarily on vulnerable populations to include families and unaccompanied children. CBP regularly plans for and executes contingency measures, such as this, to support the overarching agency mission and ensure the safety and wellbeing of those in the agency’s custody.”

A CBP Spokesperson

During one of the busiest times at the border, general passengers at both ports in Nogales had wait times over 2 hours, with the two open SENTRI lanes seeing a 60-minute delay.

“I wish Washington could come down and really see the effect it could have,” Maldonado urges lawmakers. “I wish they could talk to the locals.”

It’s not just ports of entry in Nogales seeing increased wait times.

City officials are seeing around the same times in Douglas and Yuma.

During evening hours on Tuesday, September 19th, the “general lane” had about a 60-minute delay. This is the same wait time for the “ready lanes” lanes travelers who are prescreened and have either a passport or SENTRI card.

“For Washington to make a call and take away customs and shut down gates at the port of entry and harm our economy, I think that’s not the right way to go,” Maldonado said.

The wait times aren’t just impacting travelers but commercial vehicles as well.

During afternoon hours on Tuesday, September 19th, 2023, those carrying imported goods like cars and produce waited close to an hour to enter the country. A process one driver said is typically much faster.

“Trade community and members of the traveling public crossing in privately owned vehicles or as pedestrians may experience longer than normal crossing times and should plan accordingly. They can monitor border wait times at the CBP website. Information is updated hourly.”

A CBP Spokesperson

“I hope Washington comes to visit us and look at the real picture,” Maldonado said. “It’s very different being behind a desk in Washington.” and getting a different story.”

Maldonado said he isn’t necessarily worried about the number of migrants being released in the street. He said his biggest worry is the wait times coming into the country. If times are too long, he believes it will keep people from crossing over.

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