Our View: Arizona. Ports. Need. More. Staffing. Must we shout it?

Tuesday, 14 November 2017, 12:51:22 PM. Federal policies are leading to long wait times at Arizona ports of entry - and chasing away business on which this state relies.

Editorial: Federal policies are leading to long wait times at Arizona ports of entry - and chasing away business on which this state relies.

Arizona isn’t to blame for the circumstances that led a family-owned store to close after six decades.

But Arizona has an economic interest in shifting the national rhetoric to keep more stores from closing. Our state should lead a national discussion about the value of well staffed ports of entry.

Consider that Bracker’s Department Store in Nogales thrived in its current location a block north of the U.S.-Mexico border since 1954. Like many businesses there, it relied on a steady stream of shoppers from Mexico, who cross legally at the port of entry, buy things and go home.

But recent U.S. policies led to longer wait times and fewer shoppers from across the border.

This matters to the entire state.

 

The U.S.-Mexico border fence can be seen behind Bracker's The U.S.-Mexico border fence can be seen behind Bracker's Department Store in Nogales, Arizona. The decades-old store shut its doors in October amid declining traffic from Mexican shoppers.  Nick Oza/The RepublicAfter 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown After 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown Nogales, Arizona, closes its doors.  Nick Oza/The RepublicAfter 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown After 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown Nogales, Arizona, closes its doors.  Nick Oza/The RepublicAn undated photo of Charlie and Pearl Bracker. An undated photo of Charlie and Pearl Bracker.  Nick Oza/The RepublicThe second generation to run the Bracker's business: The second generation to run the Bracker's business: Harvey, Paul and Robert Bracker.  Nick Oza/The RepublicMexican nationals shop in downtown Nogales, Arizona. Mexican nationals shop in downtown Nogales, Arizona.  Nick Oza/The RepublicMexican nationals shop in downtown Nogales, Arizona. Mexican nationals shop in downtown Nogales, Arizona.  Nick Oza/The RepublicAfter 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown After 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown Nogales, Arizona, closes its doors.  Nick Oza/The RepublicAfter 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown After 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown Nogales, Arizona, closes its doors.  Nick Oza/The RepublicMexican nationals shop in downtown Nogales, Arizona. Mexican nationals shop in downtown Nogales, Arizona.  Nick Oza/The RepublicAn archive photos of Bracker's third location, in 1937. An archive photos of Bracker's third location, in 1937.  Nick Oza/The RepublicAfter 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown After 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown Nogales, Arizona, closes its doors.  Nick Oza/The RepublicDebbie Bracker-Senday, one of the owners of the Bracker’s Debbie Bracker-Senday, one of the owners of the Bracker’s Department Store, talks about the store's 93 years of history and how the store dominated business with border-crossers in downtown Nogales, Arizona.  Nick Oza/The RepublicMexican nationals shop in downtown Nogales, Arizona. Mexican nationals shop in downtown Nogales, Arizona.  Nick Oza/The RepublicAfter 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown After 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown Nogales, Arizona, closes its doors.  Nick Oza/The RepublicAn undated photo of Bracker's Department Store in Nogales, An undated photo of Bracker's Department Store in Nogales, Arizona.  Nick Oza/The RepublicAn undated photo of Charlie Bracker at the store's An undated photo of Charlie Bracker at the store's second location.  Nick Oza/The RepublicAfter 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown After 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown Nogales, Arizona, closes its doors.  Nick Oza/The RepublicMorley Avenue in Nogales, Arizona, in 1937. Morley Avenue in Nogales, Arizona, in 1937.  Nick Oza/The RepublicAn undated photo of Harvey and Laurie Bracker in front An undated photo of Harvey and Laurie Bracker in front Bracker's.  Nick Oza/The RepublicAn undated photo of Charlie Bracker. An undated photo of Charlie Bracker.  Nick Oza/The RepublicEmployees moves furniture and other belongings before Employees moves furniture and other belongings before Bracker’s Department Store in downtown Nogales, Arizona, closes its doors.  Nick Oza/The RepublicAfter 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown After 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown Nogales, Arizona, closes its doors.  Nick Oza/The RepublicEmployees moves furniture and other belongings before Employees moves furniture and other belongings before Bracker’s Department Store in downtown Nogales, Arizona, closes its doors.  Nick Oza/The RepublicAn illustration of Pearl Bracker from 1971. An illustration of Pearl Bracker from 1971.  Nick Oza/The RepublicAfter 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown After 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown Nogales, Arizona, closes its doors.  Nick Oza/The RepublicAfter 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown After 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown Nogales, Arizona, closes its doors.  Nick Oza/The RepublicAfter 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown After 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown Nogales, Arizona, closes its doors.  Nick Oza/The RepublicDebbie Bracker-Senday, one of the owners of the Bracker’s Debbie Bracker-Senday, one of the owners of the Bracker’s Department Store, talks about the store's 93 years of history.  Nick Oza/The RepublicMexican nationals shop in downtown Nogales, Arizona. Mexican nationals shop in downtown Nogales, Arizona.  Nick Oza/The RepublicEmployees move furniture and other belongings before Employees move furniture and other belongings before Bracker’s Department Store in downtown Nogales, Arizona, closes its doors.  Nick Oza/The RepublicAfter 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown After 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown Nogales, Arizona, closes its doors.  Nick Oza/The RepublicAfter 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown After 93 years, the Bracker’s Department Store in downtown Nogales, Arizona, closes its doors.  Nick Oza/The Republic

A 2008 study done by the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management for the Arizona Office of Tourism found Mexican shoppers spent $2.69 billion a year in Arizona.

Shopping malls in Phoenix and Tucson were destinations, so the cash got spread north of the borderlands.

This study remains an eye-opener for those who see the border solely as something to fear. But the research predates the recession and needs to be updated. A new study would be a great investment for Arizona.

“Good, up-to-date data is important for developing good policy,” says Eric Lee, executive director at the North American Research Partnership and a border-trade and border-security expert at the Wilson Center.

Current information would help our state’s leadership and congressional delegation make the economic case for maintaining well staffed, modern ports of entry.

That is an important argument to articulate as the nation ponders spending limited resources on walls and more Border Patrol agents.

 

Wait times to cross the border legally have been rising since 2009, which coincides with a 50 percent reduction in the number of pedestrians crossing at the port in downtown Nogales, according to reporting by The Republic’s Rafael Carranza and Daniel Gonzalez.

Wait times can stretch into hours – even at the newly improved Mariposa Port of Entry at the edge of the twin cities of Nogales, Ariz., and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.

Lanes stay closed at this modern facility because of a shortage of Customs and Border Protection agents.

The agency was short 3,811 officers in 2013, when Congress approved hiring 2,000 more CBP officers. As of August, there were still 1,400 vacancies.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake has legislation designed to speed up hiring by waiving polygraph tests for applicants who are former members of law enforcement or the military. The bill remains in the Senate.

Arizona is moving ahead with improvements to a 3.75-mile road that connects the Mariposa Port to I-19. This will relieve a bottleneck and help move both commercial trucks that are bringing produce into our state and private cars that are bringing shoppers.

 

But without adequate staffing, wait times will remain discouragingly long. Would-be shoppers will stay home. Importers will look to Texas ports for more efficient crossing times.

Arizona’s past is pock-marked with anti-immigrant rhetoric. But our state has matured.

Today’s state leaders understand the economic importance and opportunities of doing business with Mexico, which is Arizona’s No. 1 trading partner.

But the prevailing rhetoric at the national level is about barriers, not the ports that facilitate legal crossing. It’s about hiring Border Patrol agents, not customs officers.

This is counterproductive to the needs of businesses in our state. It is counterproductive to Arizona’s efforts to maintain and expand trade and commercial relations with Mexico.

 

It is also counterproductive to national security because smugglers and other evil-doers exploit weaknesses at the ports.

Over the past five years, larger quantities of drugs such as meth and cocaine have been seized at the ports by CBP agents than between the ports by Border Patrol agents, according to Republic reporting.

Arizona’s leaders have been working on trade and border economic issues, and that’s a valuable service to the state. But they also need to become vocal cheerleaders for the economic benefits of the border.

The country needs to hear from more high-profile Arizonans about the good things we gain from sharing a border with Mexico. People need to hear how modern, well-staffed ports serve our economic and national security needs. They need to hear how neglecting those ports kills local businesses.

 

 

 

 

 

Read or Share this story: http://azc.cc/2AD5BTz

...Read more
Share this

You might also like

Similar