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Migrant encounters skyrocket in Tucson area, highest in the country

Migrants in Nogales
Posted at 5:52 AM, Nov 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-22 07:52:12-05

NOGALES, AZ — In Nogales, Arizona, Maria Jesus Lopez typed away on her computer, doing her daily work at Danny’s Reefer, a company that repairs commercial trucks.

She immigrated to Nogales, Arizona, from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, and still goes over there a few times a week to visit.

“I see more, well more people, more at the entrance (to the border),” Lopez said about migrants this year compared to last year.

Even though she said she doesn’t see as many undocumented migrants in Nogales, Arizona, compared to Nogales, Sonora, she’s still seeing double compared to last year.

Lopez said she’s also seeing more people coming from other countries besides Mexico.

A few miles away, in a parking lot near the DeConcini Port of Entry, buses stopped by every so often to pick up migrants. It was something that could be seen all day and even into the late hours of the night.

They’re buses that Lopez said she hadn’t seen as much of in years past, but is seeing more now. She said because there are buses taking them to other parts of Arizona, they don’t see the undocumented migrants for long.

“A bus comes, that I have seen... it comes, they get on, and they leave,” she said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says there has been a surge in migrants in the Tucson area and says it’s the highest increase in the country.

They say last October, there were over 22,000 migrant encounters in the Tucson area, and, just last month, that number skyrocketed to over 55,000. They say it’s over a 140% increase.

In San Diego, California, they say they saw almost a 70% increase, and in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, they saw about a 13% increase.

Some places in the country like El Paso and Laredo, Texas, have seen a decrease in migrant encounters.

Lopez’s co-worker, Guillermo Barraza, who works as a mechanic on the refrigerators, said the migrants coming often help their truck-refrigerator business.

“For the shipments… they take them down from a refrigerated box and they move them up to another, doing shipments, and for that, we do need them,” Barraza said.

As for other businesses, a man who wanted to be identified only as DJ, works in Nogales as a shuttle driver. He said he hasn’t been seeing an increase but has been facing authorities.

“The sheriffs are even pulling you over, shuttles over, to look for migrants and to look for different things,” DJ said.

While there are more migrants coming to the area, Lopez thinks Nogales is still safe.

“Right now, well I think Nogales, Arizona, is calm,” she said.