TUCSON — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers had to close lanes of entry into Arizona from Mexico and implement security measures last week after asylum seekers disrupted operations.
Travelers using the ports of entry in Douglas and Nogales may experience delays in the future due to vehicle lane closures. Vehicle lanes approaching the United States from Mexico may be reduced following an increase of asylum-seeking migrants using vehicle lanes to circumvent the immigration process, CBP says.
Other Arizona ports of entry last week experienced this same issue in which asylum seekers without proper documentation attempted to evade inspection and cause disruption to normal operations. This resulted in lane closures and increased wait times.
In partnership with CBP, the government of Mexico will increase its presence and enforcement efforts to prevent the incursions from occurring, CBP said. State and local law enforcement agencies will also assist with security efforts.
Guadalupe Ramirez, director of field operations for CBP, stated, “Non-compliance with proper procedures overwhelms the ports of entry and jeopardizes the safety and security of our employees and public. We will not allow ports to be overrun, and are prepared for large groups and caravans attempting to violate our security measures.”
Should attempted incursions continue, the reduction of lanes may continue to increase security measures.
CBP officials understand and recognize the importance of the holiday season and the impact these enforcement measures will have to the local community and state of Arizona; however, the reduction of lanes and reallocation of officers for security measures may be necessary, Ramirez said.
CBP has seen mass incursion attempts at the ports of entry previously, some of which were used as diversions by criminal organizations attempting to smuggle illicit items across the border.
Travelers may see officers exercising security measures in Douglas over the next few days for operational security readiness, CBP said.
Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday brushed aside concerns that a slowdown at border crossings into Arizona engineered by federal officials will affect visitors to Arizona — and supplies for a new auto manufacturing plant here.
“There are real issues at the border, both humanitarian and security-wise,’’ the governor told Capitol Media Services in response to questions about five-hour delays in cars getting through checkpoints at Nogales, Arizona. That is five times longer than what normally occurs at this time of the year according to statistics by Customs and Border Protection.
“My team has talked with CBP,’’ Ducey said.
“We’re confident that they’re on it,’’ he continued. “They’re doing everything possible to make sure that we’re allowing commerce to flow but also protecting public safety. And we’re going to be supportive of that effort.’’
Ducey would not comment on reports that the decision to close multiple lanes in the border crossings is a deliberate move by CBP to slow the flow of people driving from Mexico and seeking amnesty.
“What I’m going to say is, CBP is acting in the best interests of public safety,’’ he said.
“It has caused delays at our southern border,’’ Ducey said. And the governor said he is “confident’’ the issue “will be resolved.’’