Border wait times could drop with addition of 170 officers

2014-04-04T00:00:00Z 2014-04-07T09:43:46Z Border wait times could drop with addition of 170 officersBy Perla Trevizo and Gabriela Rico Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

There might be shorter wait lines in the near future as Arizona’s ports of entry get an influx of additional officers.

The two border crossings in Nogales will get 120 officers, while 25 will be assigned to the Douglas port and another 25 to San Luis near Yuma, U.S. Rep. Ron Barber announced.

“Customs and Border Protection officers are essential to the smooth flow of legal goods and commerce across the border,” said Barber, a Tucson Democrat who is on the House Committee on Homeland Security. “I have been working to ensure that as we work on border security, we also ensure that we have economic security — which is possible only if ports are staffed so there are not excessive wait times.”

Business and political leaders in Arizona have voiced criticism that, while multimillion-dollar upgrades are underway at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales, there had been no discussion of increasing the staffing.

“A remodeled Mariposa stands to be an expensive white elephant, which is why a bipartisan effort to ensure that needed officers are deployed to Arizona is so important,” Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said last month.

Barber and seven of his colleagues in the Arizona delegation — Republicans as well as Democrats — sought additional CBP officers for Arizona in a letter written a month ago to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, saying that cartels are increasingly smuggling through ports because of a buildup of Border Patrol agents elsewhere along the border.

The 170 officers fall short of the 500 Barber and the delegation had asked Johnson to assign to Southern Arizona, but Barber said it was a first good step.

The Mariposa port is scheduled to be complete this year. It will have eight commercial truck lanes and 12 passenger lanes.

It is the 10th-largest port in the U.S. in terms of commercial vehicle traffic. Most imported Mexican produce comes through Nogales.

Last fall, the Arizona Department of Transportation began work on Arizona 189 from the port to Interstate 19 in anticipation of increased truck volume once the port opens.

ADOT is adding new turn lanes from Arizona 189 to northbound I-19 and widening the interstate’s entrance ramp.

Contact reporter Perla Trevizo at ptrevizo@azstarnet.com or 573-4213.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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