LUKEVILLE, Ariz.—An unmarked white minivan hazy with dust rumbled along the dirt road to a federal processing station less than two miles north of the international border in Lukeville, Arizona.
The minivan pulled into a large parking area, also dirt, where dozens of illegal aliens milled around outside large military-style tents with their worldly belongings at their feet.
Many were young children, some who wore slippers and pajamas in the morning chill. Others lingered inside the tents in winter jackets or draped in blankets.
Some appeared nervous, others fearful.
The white minivan stopped, and a side door opened—out stepped another family of new arrivals, who immediately joined a growing queue surrounded by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in green uniforms with pens and notepads.
Soon, the new arrivals would board white buses to take them to better-equipped processing centers further north in Casa Grande and Tucson on their way to their final destinations inside the United States.
Within minutes, another white minivan would arrive. Then another—and another—on and on throughout the morning.
Just days after the Biden administration closed the busy Lukeville Port of Entry to handle a surge of illegal border crossings, the situation appears only to have gotten worse.
“Here, it depends,” said a CBP agent at a processing station about 52 miles away, who did not want his name used. “Sometimes, we get hit with 100. Sometimes, it’s eight to 10.”
“It’s 24/7. We’re stretched thin,” he said.
Small bands of illegals made their way after crossing the border to the facility along a desert road littered with discarded clothing, water bottles, and backpacks from others who came before them.
“I don’t know the demographics but here, they appear to be Mexican, Columbian, Ecuadorian. From here, they’ll be taken up to the Casa Grande station” before they are processed and shipped to welcome centers in Tucson and Phoenix, the Border Patrol agent told The Epoch Times.
In recent days, news outlets reported hundreds of adult men crossing at gaps and other points along the sprawling border fence built during the Trump administration.
In Lukeville, the majority of agents not reassigned to fieldwork were busy at the port of entry, “inputting stuff” into computers, the CBP agent told The Epoch Times.
“Unless we get hit with 100, we’re able to process them at our station,” the agent said. “It’s a mix. It’s probably 50/50—single adults and family units.”
“The majority get released to a welcome center up in Phoenix. They’ll come down and pick them up.”
According to a CBP spokesman, the agency is continuing to see “ebbs and flows” of illegals arriving daily, “fueled by the efforts of smugglers to use disinformation to prey on vulnerable migrants and encourage migration.”
“As we respond with additional resources and apply consequences for unlawful entry, the migration trends shift as well. We continue to adjust our operational plans to maximize enforcement efforts against those noncitizens who do not use lawful pathways or processes such as CBP One.”
CBP One is a mobile application by the Biden administration for illegal aliens to acquire access to a variety of the agency’s services “based on their needs.”
The spokesman told The Epoch Times that the Department of Homeland Security is expanding legal pathways for legal immigration, while “strengthening enforcement consequences for those who cross our border unlawfully.”
“Individuals and families without a legal basis to remain in the U.S. are subject to removal pursuant to CBP’s longstanding Title 8 authorities and are subject to a minimum five-year bar on reapplying for admission and potential criminal prosecution if they subsequently re-enter without authorization.
CBP is leveraging all available resources and partnerships to vet and process migrants efficiently and consistently with the law, the spokesman said.
The agency continues to “surge personnel, transportation, processing, and humanitarian resources to the most active and arduous areas throughout Tucson’s border region where migrants are callously placed by for-profit smuggling organizations, often without proper preparation.”
The Tucson Sector spans 262 miles of borderland from the Yuma County line to the New Mexico State border with Arizona.
On Dec. 4, the CBP temporarily suspended operations at the Lukeville Port of Entry to assist the Border Patrol with field processing and transportation of illegals to the Ajo Station in the Tucson Sector.
Closing of the Lukeville Port of Entry drew unexpected sharp criticism from Arizona’s Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs, U.S. Senators Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), a former Democrat.
In a letter to the Biden Administration, Ms. Hobbs urged that the 243 National Guard members already in the Tucson Sector be used to reopen the Lukeville Point of Entry.
On Dec. 8, she launched Operation SECURE (Safety, Enforcement, Coordination, and Uniform Response) to mobilize state resources to “bring order and security to the border.”
“The decision to close the Lukeville Port of Entry has led to an unmitigated crisis in the area and put Arizona’s safety and commerce at risk,” Ms. Hobbs said in a press release.
“Our ports of entry are vital for security and trade, and insufficient resources hinder our ability to properly manage the influx of migrants who have continued to come to Lukeville.
“With the launch of Operation SECURE, the state of Arizona is doing everything we can to secure the border, but we are at a breaking point. We need the federal government to step up, do its job, and bring security and order to our border.”
Ms. Hobbs said Operation SECURE seeks to create a new border security office within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with $2 million in federal funding for the first year.
The office would serve as a hub of coordination for border security operations to ensure proper leveraging of local, state, and federal assets to “keep Arizonans safe and maintain a secure, humane, and orderly border,” she said.
The operation would provide up to $5 million for the National Guard unless the Biden administration promptly reopens the Lukeville port of entry, she added.
The governor also billed the federal government nearly $512,530 in reimbursements for ongoing border operations resulting from “the federal government’s failure to secure the Arizona border,” according to Ms. Hobbs.
“Moving forward, the state will regularly seek reimbursement from the federal government,” she wrote.
Economy at Near Standstill
In Lukeville, a small unincorporated town on the U.S.-Mexico border in Pima County, most of the businesses that served the port of entry are at a near standstill.
“It’s crazy,” said a cashier at a nearby gas and convenience store.
At the Lukeville Post Office, established in 1969, a postal worker was busy sorting through piles of undelivered packages following the port of entry’s closure.
“I hope it reopens soon,” the postal worker said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We’ve got a load of packages. People are starting to make their schedules to pick up their stuff.”
Many of the undelivered packages were from “Black Friday” and “Super Monday” sales, the postal worker told The Epoch Times.
Worse, nobody expected the government to close the port of entry, given its economic value.
“They let us know Friday we were going to close on Monday. Everybody was in shock,” the postal worker said.
From The Epoch Times