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Arizona reopens 4 border crossings that were closed due to record number of migrants

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

To the border now, where four crossings with Mexico reopened yesterday after the federal government closed them late last year. That was in response to as many as 10,000 people a day crossing the border. Arizona Public Media's Danyelle Khmara went to the port of entry at Lukeville, Ariz., which was closed for 30 days.

DANYELLE KHMARA, BYLINE: The Lukeville Port is a direct route from Arizona to popular beaches at Rocky Point and a vital connection between the small cross-border communities of Ajo, Ariz., and Sonoyta in Sonora. Sergio Hernandez owns Tacos El Tarasco restaurant in Ajo. He says he lost nearly half his revenue during the monthlong closure. And another complication - all his employees live on the Mexico side of the border. So what was a 40-minute commute became close to six hours.

SERGIO HERNANDEZ: If it happens again, I don't know what are we going to do - maybe downsize or move my business somewhere else.

KHMARA: More than a million cars pass through the town of about 3,200 people every year, says Bo Johnson with the Ajo Chamber of Commerce. And the closure happened during what is usually the busiest time, when businesses make critical revenue to make it through the slow summer months.

BO JOHNSON: So we're glad to see that this only lasted a month, but one month was pretty devastating as far as revenue for our businesses and for visitation and tourism in our town.

KHMARA: Arizona has become the epicenter of migrant crossings in recent months, with Border Patrol apprehending upwards of 70,000 people in December. After the border closure, Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs called out the National Guard to assist local law enforcement with border security measures. Toward the end of December, the numbers of migrants slowed, which allowed the Department of Homeland Security to reopen the ports of entry, says DHS' Blas Nunez-Neto.

BLAS NUNEZ-NETO: That reduction, you know, may be the result of seasonal trends. We usually do see a decline in encounters this time of year. And it could also be the result of some coordinated enforcement actions that we are taking with the government of Mexico over the last couple of weeks.

KHMARA: Nunez-Neto says future closures are a possibility if migrant numbers increase again. For NPR News, I'm Danyelle Khmara in Lukeville, Ariz. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Danyelle Khmara