Lukeville, Arizona Point of Entry Forced to Close under Crush of Illegal Migrants
FAIR Take | December 2023
Due to the crush of migrants, smugglers, and drugs crossing into the Tucson sector, the Lukeville Port of Entry (POE) in Arizona was forced to close on December 4. Although situated in a remote desert, the Lukeville POE has been the fourth busiest border crossing in Arizona’s Tucson Sector for months. The Tucson sector, which extends from the Yuma County line to the New Mexico border, is one of the busiest sectors on the southern border, recording over 300,000 migrant crossings in FY 2023 alone.
Despite the already high numbers, the Tuscon Sector has witnessed an extraordinary surge in illegal border crossings since the end of Title 42. In the past five months alone, the number of illegal aliens encountered in that sector has more than doubled. In October, the Tucson Sector was overwhelmed by over 55,000 migrants – more than any other region of the southwest border. The Ajo station, about 25 miles north of Lukeville, was filled to 546 percent of capacity. Unrestrained surges have forced border patrol to move agents from other areas to help process the illegal border crossers.
The surge in crossings isn’t just limited to people alone. Drugs have flowed in as well. In a single day in October, for example, agents in the Tucson sector confiscated more than 70 pounds of methamphetamine and over 63 pounds of fentanyl, with an estimated street value close to $480,000. It is clear the uptick in migrant crossings directly coincides with an increase in drug seizures.
The flow shows no sign of easing either. For the final week of November, the sector’s chief patrol agent, John Modlin, reported mindboggling statistics: 17,500 migrant apprehensions, ten human smuggling events, eight narcotics events, and 18 rescues. Over Thanksgiving alone, thousands of migrants gathered within the region, effectively overwhelming border patrol personnel. Recent numbers suggest that the Lukeville area on its own sees nearly a thousand migrants daily, with the newcomers originating from all over the globe: Kenya, Syria, Nepal, South Africa, India, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic.
Utterly overwhelmed, border patrol agents in the Tucson sector, along with those from neighboring locations, have now begun transporting migrants from the Lukeville crossing to alternative ports of entry, such as San Luis and Nogales- both situated over 100 miles away. In addition to their responsibility to transport these border crossers, border patrol entry specialists have been assigned to expedite the process for those who show up at an official POE. Migrants avoiding POEs are transported to Yuma and El Paso for expedited removal.
Dramatic increases in the numbers coupled with the demand for border patrol agents to transport these individuals to processing centers a significant distance away, has resulted in the Lukeville crossing being virtually devoid of agents for extended periods of time. The cartels have exploited this opportunity, funneling in thousands of criminal aliens, who do not want their identities known, as well as mass quantities of drugs into the country.
Former Yuma Border Patrol chief Chris Clem expressed his concern over the threat to national security posed by the current: “This is three years running…this is military-age, single, adult males. This is just reminiscent of what I dealt with the last two years in Yuma. So, again, we are continuing this, the same uncontrolled, unregulated illegal immigration and something needs to happen.”
Arizona officials are beginning to sound the alarm. Congressman Rep. Ciscomani (R-Ariz.). recently penned a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, stating that, “The situation is far past a breaking point and those on the frontlines of this crisis are in need of immediate support. I urge you to immediately request the Department of Defense deploy the Arizona National Guard to help with this dire situation… [O]ur agents and offices are overrun and undermanned.”
Concerned about the economic impact of the closure, Governor Katie Hobbs of Arizona has demanded that the federal government re-open the Lukeville Port of Entry and provide additional resources to sufficiently man the station. In a letter to President Biden, she wrote: “The decision to close the Lukeville Port of Entry has created an unmitigated humanitarian disaster in the area and has put Arizona’s safety and economy at risk. Our ports of entry are essential to our state and our country’s economy, and it is vital that they be properly staffed and resourced to fuel the economic growth in the state.” Hobbs asked President Biden to reassign hundreds of National Guard troops on federal active duty orders at the border to the Lukeville Port of Entry so that it may be reopened. She also asked him to reimburse Arizona for half a billion dollars the state has spent on border-related activities.
In addition to the letter, Governor Hobbs last week also launched Operation SECURE (Safety, Enforcement, Coordination, & Uniform Response) to help support border security efforts in Arizona. Operation SECURE will create a new Border Security Office within the Arizona Department of Homeland Security to coordinate border security operations to ensure local, state, and federal assets are being “properly leveraged.”
The irony here is that Governor Hobbs is now forced to deal with an illegal immigration crisis that has only ballooned since her time in the state legislature, where she consistently voted against measures aimed at reducing illegal immigration. These included proposals for building a border wall, implementing criminal sentencing for illegal aliens, and prohibiting state funds to sanctuary cities.
While Customs and Border Protection released a statement last week asserting that increased mass migration driven by smugglers “peddling disinformation” was the reason for Lukeville’s closure, most experts say that this does not accurately reflect reality. Both migrants and smugglers appear to interpret the policies of the Biden administration and Governor Hobbs at face value, perceiving that the U.S.-Mexico border is akin to an open welcome mat for all.