AXIOS – Partial closures at key U.S.-Mexico border crossings could cost billions in trade and are causing chaos and political fallout.
The big picture: A massive influx of immigrants at the southern border has led U.S. Customs and Border Protection to divert resources from busy crossings in Arizona and Texas.
Republicans say the Biden administration needs to do more to address the issue, and former President Trump says he is “closing the border” as one of his first acts if he returns to office.
Yes, but: There is evidence that even partial closures can have devastating consequences.
After railway operations in Eagle Pass and El Paso, Texas, were temporarily suspended this month to send officers to process migrants, businesses reported a drop in traffic and damage to local economies.
Eagle Pass and El Paso account for $33.95 billion annually in trade — just shy of 36% of all cross-border rail traffic to and from Mexico, according to the Texas Association of Business.
“This is a short-sighted, half-baked decision that will not make a dent in illegal migration but will cause economic harm to everyday Americans,” Texas Association of Business president and CEO Glenn Hamer said in a statement.
Where it stands: Operations in Eagle Pass and El Paso resumed Friday afternoon, CBP said in a statement.
The closure of the Lukeville Port of Entry in Arizona, the main crossing for people traveling to the popular tourism destination of Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, has created a political firestorm for the Biden administration in Arizona — a critical swing state.
Local gas stations and restaurants on both sides of the border have had to cut hours, and some businesses are contemplating closing temporarily out of survival, per the Arizona Republic.
The border crossing has been closed since Dec. 4, and there’s no reopen date in sight.
Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, sharply criticized the Biden administration over the ordeal, saying it was a “bad decision.”
A White House spokesperson tells Axios that authorities “took this temporary action in order to stop a large movement of migrants coming by rail and to protect the health and safety of its personnel.”
“We are working closely with the Mexican government in an attempt to resolve this issue, and also surging personnel to the region. We are communicating regularly with industry leaders to ensure we are assessing and mitigating the impacts of these temporary closures.”
Later Thursday, the White House released a readout of Biden’s call with Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador where both sides agreed that more “enforcement actions” were needed so key ports of entry could reopen.
State of play: CBP is surpassing 10,000 encounters with migrants along the southern border per day and is seeing record numbers of illegal crossings this month, per the Washington Post.