Arizona governor says reopened US-Mexico border ports shouldn’t have closed


Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) on Wednesday welcomed the reopening of a key port of entry at the border with Mexico, but she warned against future closures.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials are due to reopen four ports in Arizona, California and Texas on Thursday, after they shut down or severely restricted operations for weeks, citing manpower shortages due to migrant crossings between ports of entry.

Hobbs said the closure of the Lukeville, Ariz., port of entry, which hosts more than a million lawful entries to the United States per year, was unnecessary.

“The closure of the Lukeville Port of Entry caused a month of strain and concern for Arizona’s border communities. While the reopening is welcome news, this closure shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” she said in a statement.

CBP officials said the closures were necessary to pull officers away to support the Border Patrol’s management of the record-high number of arrivals of migrants between ports of entry.

December was an unusually busy month for the Border Patrol — according to a report by CBS News, the record number of 225,000 apprehensions by the Border Patrol was set Dec. 27.

But the Border Patrol has managed similar numbers both historically and recently — 224,370 in May 2022 and 222,018 in December 2022.

In March 2000, the Border Patrol conducted 220,063 apprehensions at a time when migrants were less likely to readily turn themselves in for asylum processing, and the Border Patrol had about 9,200 agents, compared to about 19,300 in 2023.

The decision to pull CBP agents was not well received in border communities that depend on trade and licit crossings to survive.

“Arizona’s ports of entry are vital to national security and trade, and it’s critical that the federal government sends more resources to ensure this does not happen again. While Lukeville will be reopened soon, it’s clear we have work to do to secure our border,” said Hobbs.

More funding for border security is tied up in Congress, amid slow-moving Senate negotiations tacking together border policy reforms, border funding, and aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

Yet the reopenings come as daily Border Patrol encounters have fallen by as much as 75 percent compared to December.

That’s in part due to a December meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to discuss migration. While the meeting’s content was kept private, López Obrador has publicly said he sought to reopen ports of entry and to change U.S. policy toward Cuba and Venezuela.

Since that meeting, López Obrador announced an agreement with Venezuela to directly deport that country’s nationals from Mexico.

The reopenings are a major foreign policy win for López Obrador, and the drop in crossings is an indicator of the size of Mexico’s role in border security.

“The reopening of the border crossings is a positive development. These crossings are also economic lifelines, essential for workers, families, and businesses alike,” a Mexican official told The Hill.

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