Arizona, Sonora officials seek to improve flow at border ports of entry

By Howard Fischer

Arizona and Sonora officials are meeting this week in hope of easing the crunch at border ports of entry. Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano said a major theme of the two-day conference in Ciudad Obregon will be improving the flow at those crossings “so we get the lines shortened.”

She said much of the focus will be at the Lukeville-Sonoyta crossing where backups on some weekends can result in delays of seven hours or more to get into the United States. But the governor said work is needed at all the ports.

The push for speedier crossings comes as members of the Arizona-Mexico Commission look at various ways of improving the region’s economy.

Napolitano said she and Eduardo Bours, her Sonoran counterpart, are particularly interested in working to encourage firms to co-locate operations in the region.

“It’s what I call the ‘Motorola model,’ where they put the manufacturing side into Sonora but the research, development and business administration side into Arizona,” she said.

Similarly, Napolitano said there are efforts to promote Arizona and Sonora as a joint destination for international tourists.

But Napolitano, speaking to Capitol Media Services in advance of the trip, said all that effort requires that people and goods be able to move easily across the border.

While both states are interested in improving the ports of entry, they are largely dependent on their two federal governments providing the cash.

Ramon Riesgo, a border station specialist for the U.S. General Services Administration, is scheduled to brief commission members about what is being done on the American side of the border.

And Napolitano said she is going to be meeting with Mexican Transportation Secretary Luis Tellez.

“We will be discussing with him putting Mexican resources into that (Lukeville-Sonoyta) port, and any other land ports as well,” she said.

Napolitano also said she is “open to” an idea suggested nearly two months ago by U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that businesses wanting expanded ports of entry might consider offering some funding to speed the process along.

“I don’t know exactly how it would work,” she said. But Napolitano said any such plan could be expedited through the Arizona-Mexico Commission, whose participants include many business owners and managers on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

“For example, we have some of the large agricultural interests that do shipping through the Mariposa gate at Nogales,” she said.

The governor said it’s possible those interests might be willing to put some money into improvements to “make the ports more efficient.”  

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