"Asylum seekers" cause wait times to jump at Nogales ports of entry
On December 13, Guadalupe Ramirez Jr., Director of Field Operations at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations in Tucson, Arizona visited the studio at Arizona Public Media to discuss delays at CBP ports of entry at Nogales, Arizona.
On December 3, metal barriers were erected to block three of the six vehicle lanes at the CBP port of entry in downtown Nogales. This happened days after "asylum seekers" attempted to evade inspection by running through vehicle lanes, in order to make asylum claims in U.S. territory.
As a result, drivers wanting to cross into Arizona from Nogales, Sonora, had to wait for five hours, compared to a maximum wait time of two hours in November and December.
The cause for the impatience was a policy instituted this year by Customs and Border Protection called “metering”, under which only a limited number of asylum requests are allowed per day, depending on conditions at each port of entry.
CBP responds by hardening the port of entry
Guadalupe Ramirez explained that CBP had to put in place security measures including the restriction of some vehicle lanes. With less lanes open, the number of officers manning the port was sufficient to monitor all lanes remaining open.
The Director of Field Operations pointed out that when large numbers of people run through a vehicle lane that creates a danger to themselves, CBP officers as well as ordinary people trying to get through the port of entry. Ramirez pointedly added that it is mainly CBP officers who wind up getting hurt when there is an altercation.
CBP officers are diverted from their important responsibilities
When migrants rush the port and technically reach U.S. soil, Customs and Border Protection officers are legally obligated to process their entry immediately, pushing other asylum seekers to the back of the line. That forces Ramirez to rearrange staff; in some cases that means transporting migrants to receive medical care and remaining with them while they are treated. That takes CBP officers away from ports, leaving them understaffed.
Guadalupe Ramirez cites a study done years ago at the University of Arizona showing that over $7,000,000 enters Arizona daily through ports of entry. CBP's primary mission is facilitating travel and trade. When incidents like the rushing of a port occur, CBP is forced to reallocate resources, causing a reduction of staff dedicated to their first priority.
Last year alone, Customs and Border Protection seized over 10,000 pounds of methamphetamine at Arizona ports of entry. Right now we are in the middle of a crisis created by an influx of opioids and other dangerous drugs; it is imperative that CBP maintain its enforcement posture.
A CBP port of entry is not designed to be a detention facility. Traditionally, people detained at Nogales ports of entry were narcotics smugglers, or people attempting to use fraudulent documents; they were primarily single adults. Processing for that type of violation takes three to four hours, then they are put in jail.
What's happening now, in contrast, is that families are detained and processed, and then instead of being transferred to a jail, CBP needs to hold on to them until ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations can find space for them.