CBP pausing operations at border crossing in Arizona, announces anti-smuggling measures

People will be temporarily redirected from the port of entry at Lukeville.

December 3, 2023, 5:16 PM

U.S. Customs and Border Protection will be temporarily suspending operations on Monday at a border crossing in Lukeville, Arizona, in order to free up agents to deal with what they call "increased levels of migrant encounters" at the border "fueled by smugglers peddling disinformation to prey on vulnerable individuals."

Border officials said they are redirecting all vehicle and pedestrian traffic to other ports of entry in the area.

The agency told ABC News that the Tucson sector, where Lukeville is located, is currently seeing the most migrant encounters of any area along the southern border with Mexico.

On Friday, the sector's chief patrol agent, John Modlin, said there had been around 17,500 migrant apprehensions over the course of a week. By contrast, there were 23,411 total migrant encounters for the area in November 2022.

The sector saw more than 55,000 encounters in October, officials said.

CBP's acting commissioner, Troy A. Miller, told ABC News that the agency is helping to execute law enforcement operations targeting transportation networks helping to smuggle migrants through northern Mexico en route to the border.

Smuggling organizations have been exploiting the region in part because of how remote it is, CBP said.

U.S. Customs and Patrol Patrol agents sit along a section of the international border wall that runs through Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Aug. 22, 2019 in Lukeville, Ariz.
Matt York/AP, FILE

Lukeville is an unincorporated town located about two and a half hours from either Tucson or Phoenix. That has made it more challenging for federal and local officials to surge resources to the area to help process migrants quickly.

The agency said it has been working with nearby Pima County to send additional transportation resources, bringing in Border Patrol entry specialists to speed up processing. They've also been transporting some migrants to CBP facilities in Yuma, Arizona and El Paso, Texas, for expedited removal.

Last week, CBP also temporarily suspended vehicle processing at a checkpoint in Eagle Pass, Texas, to deal with an increase of migrant encounters there.

In an interview last week, Miller told ABC News that tamping down operations at ports of entry, which process numerous people and goods as they arrive into the country each day, is one way the agency can help prioritize apprehending and processing migrants who attempt to cross into the U.S elsewhere on the border.

"This is how we manage our operations," Miller said. "We surged to those locations -- we have to -- for the safety and security of our officers or agents, the migrants we encounter and frankly, to maximize the enforcement efforts that we have underway."

ABC News' Luke Barr and Quinn Owen contributed to this report.

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