City and federal law enforcement agencies say they are prepared for a potential protest Saturday morning at the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry by a group that hopes to block access to Mexico at U.S. land ports of entry.
The Nogales Police Department is making “additional resources available,” said Lt. Carlos Jimenez, while a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Nogales said in an emailed statement that the agency “has contingency plans ready to put into place in the event of any protest or a temporary blockage of traffic at our international border crossings.”
The CBP representative declined to discuss the specifics of those plans, citing security concerns.
According to the protest’s website, the “Shut Down all Ports of Entry” action seeks to, as its name suggests, “shut down every United States port of entry on the southern border until our goals our met.”
Those goals, according to Indiana-based protest organizer Rob Chupp, include the immediate release of active-duty Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who was arrested in April in Mexico for bringing loaded weapons into the country after apparently making a wrong turn into the San Ysidro port of entry in Southern California. Chupp’s group also wants the U.S. government to “secure our borders and protect the citizens in America from foreign threats.”
Among other things, a mission statement released by organizers demands, “[a] clear plan of action and confirmed intent to permanently seal off our Southern border, by means of a military grade fence with razor wire (or similar equivalent) and adding any and all additional Border Patrol Agents and militarized National Guard members needed to further deter any unauthorized entry. The Southern border MUST be sealed.”
Stasyi Barth, the Southern California-based originator of the protest, confirmed that the DeConcini port would be one of 17 ports of entry along the southern border targeted by protesters and one of four in Arizona.
Chupp claimed that an unnamed federal law enforcement body had advised the group to avoid certain ports because of potential threats from the Islamic State in the Levant, the terrorist group known by the initials ISIS or ISIL.
The border-wide action is planned to begin at 8 a.m. local time.
To shut ports of entry down, Chupp said, participants will use their personal vehicles to block outgoing and incoming traffic.
“We’re going pull in, park cars, and basically protest,” he said.
A list of recommended guidelines put out by organizers states that “[p]atriots need to arrive in separate vehicles to ensure that we have enough to block each lane of the freeway. If you have a larger vehicle (for example: semis, trucks, RVs, horse trailers), that would help to cover more space. Use your imagination!”
If participants park near the DeConcini port and walk away, Jimenez said, their vehicles will likely be towed and impounded and their owners fined. If the vehicles are left on federal property, the Federal Protective Service will take charge, while NPD will address blockages on city streets. Guidelines from organizers advise protesters to keep their vehicles off of federal property.
While organizers claim that hundreds will attend the events border-wide, Jimenez said he expects the turnout to be modest and, despite NPD’s preparations, he expressed some doubt about the protest’s potential impact.
“They’re really disorganized and not really prepared,” he said of the organizers. “They don’t have a leader or point of contact in Arizona.”
“I don’t think a lot of those people want their car towed,” he added.
Whatever happens, Jimenez said, NPD is ready.
“We’re preparing for the worst, expecting the least,” he said.