Port

After installing and then partially removing shipping containers from three vehicle lanes at the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection had them back in place on Monday as travelers waited for hours to cross the border.

Post-holiday traffic and sealed-off vehicle lanes spelled hours-long backups at the DeConcini and Mariposa ports of entry on Monday.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection estimated four-hour delays to cross the border into the United States via passenger car at both ports as of 1 p.m., according to its Border Wait Times app. Media in Sonora reported even longer waits and broadcast images of lines of cars extending south at least a mile south from the ports.

CBP temporarily closed select vehicle lanes at both ports last week, citing “a significant increase of asylum-seekers using vehicle lanes to circumvent the immigration process.” Some of the closed lanes re-opened in the following days, only to be closed again after an apparent resurgence in lane-rushing.

“Currently there are three vehicle lanes closed at the DeConcini crossing and two vehicle lanes closed (at) the Mariposa crossing in Nogales, Ariz.,” an agency spokesperson wrote in an email sent shortly before 1 p.m. Monday.

The Border Wait Times app reported three regular passenger car lanes, plus two SENTRI trusted-traveler vehicle lanes, open at DeConcini, which has a total of eight northbound vehicle lanes. Another five passenger car lanes were open at Mariposa, which has a total of 13.

Attempts by asylum-seekers to reach U.S. soil by entering the ports illegally through the vehicle lanes “have occurred a couple of times in the last several days,” the spokesperson said Monday, though they declined to say how many people had tried the tactic, citing “operational security.”

Officials in Mexico say that some asylum-seekers have rushed the vehicle lanes at the ports on foot, while others have entered the ports by car.

Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino said Monday afternoon that he is concerned about the impact the longer wait times could have during the holiday shopping season, explaining that October through January are the months that bring the most sales tax revenue for the city.

Still, Garino said, while he is aware that the longer wait times are a big inconvenience for people on both sides of the border, he fully supports CBP’s decision to step up security at the local ports after the recent events.

“We can’t have people just storming our ports and thinking they’re going to get away with it. They need to come in the legal way,” he said.

“It’s unfortunate, but this is our way of life here in Nogales and sometimes these things happen so we have to be considerate of the work that CBP does at the port. They don’t only do their work for the agents at the port, but for the citizens of the United States.”

Gov. Doug Ducey expressed similar sentiments in comments made Monday to Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services, saying that his staff had been briefed on the situation at the ports. “They're doing everything possible to make sure that we're allowing commerce to flow but also protecting public safety," he said of CBP, adding: "And we're going to be supportive of that effort.”

Migrants waiting in Nogales, Sonora for a chance to legally enter the DeConcini port through the pedestrian area and request U.S. asylum told the NI last Friday that the possibility that the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols could soon be applied in this area was inspiring some to turn to drastic measures. The MPP, also known as “Remain in Mexico,” requires asylum-seekers to return to Mexico to await resolution of their claim.

The CBP spokesperson, however, declined to comment in their email Monday on what might be behind the recent attempts to make asylum claims at the vehicle lanes.

“We cannot speculate on the reasons people choose to make these decisions,” the person wrote. “CBP welcomes immigration, but U.S. laws and established processes must be followed to maintain operational security.”

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