The immigration crisis at the U.S. southern border is affecting all ports of entry and is slowing the commercial crossings, including fresh produce.
Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, said April 5, that the nearby Nogales, AZ port will be closed Sunday, April 7, which will further increase wait times, as both commercial and visitor traffic ramps up for Easter, April 21.
He said retail orders for Holy Week on eggplant, green beans, watermelon and asparagus from Mexico are particularly affected and may see tight supplies.
“All ports of entry are affected,” he said. “They’re all making sacrifices, whether with fewer people or hours.”
He said about 75 Customs and Border Patrol agents in Nogales are being moved from doing business inspections to other border security duties, which will slow fresh produce crossings.
“You’re taking a person who is skilled at the port of entry – to take them away and do something else,” Jungmeyer said.
About a week ago, President Trump threatened to close the border to all traffic, which got people scrambling. Late this week, he backed off the threat.
Jungmeyer said the threat caught the business community off guard, and even though the president has softened his stance, it’s always in the background.
Not only that, but farmers on the Mexican side stopped all traffic with a tractor blockade April 1, saying the Mexican government isn’t supporting local growers like it should.
Jungmeyer said border crossing delays harm the entire supply chain.
“When trucks get stuck at the border, it affects all along the supply chain and sets back harvests even,” he said.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce participated in a call April 4 with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s trade office and alerted members to the following:
-There were 103,000 illegal crossings in March 2019, surpassing the previous record of 89,000 in February 2008. There were 75,000 illegal crossings in February 2019.
-All ports of entry across the southwest border are impacted. For example, there was a 7-hour peak wait time at the El Paso Bridge compared to 50 minutes in 2018.
-The CBP expects the number of crossings and wait times will continue to increase, at least in the short term. For instance, there’s an increase in trucks not making it across the border that end up waiting overnight, creating a backlog in the morning.