Immigration: Legal Mexican Visitors Shun Arizona

  • The US Senate voted to spend $600 million to beef up border security
  • The number of legal visitors crossing from Mexico to Arizona has dropped 17 percent
  •  A decrease in Mexican visitors is hurting the southern Arizona economy
  • Carry the right documents to speed border crossings from Mexico into the US


Arizona’s tough new immigration law and an increased emphasis on US border security are keeping legal Mexican visitors away. A huge drop in the number of legal visitors from Mexico is hurting southern Arizona businesses, which are already struggling in a bad economy.

US Senate Passes $600 Million Border Security Bill

During the first week of August 2010, the Senate voted to spend $600 million on increased border security. The plan includes $176 million for 1,000 new Border Patrol agents, $89 million for 500 new customs and immigration personnel and $32 million for unmanned planes, or drones. An additional $196 million will go to the US Justice Department to increase the number of US marshals, FBI, DEA and ATF agents along the border.

New York Democrat Senator Sen. Charles E. Schumer introduced the bill with the idea that taking a firm stand against illegal immigration was the first step to comprehensive immigration reform. Funding for the bill will come from higher fees on visas for companies that employ foreign workers.

The bill must still pass the House before becoming law. Meanwhile, President Obama is sending up to 1,200 National Guard troops to help guard the border until new agents are hired and trained.

Focus on Border Security Slows Legal Visitor Traffic

While the effect of increased border security on the traffic of illegal immigrants is unclear, it’s certain that the flow of legal visitors from Mexico has slowed. According to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data, in the months since Arizona’s Governor signed the state’s new immigration law in April 2010, visits from Mexico to Arizona are down 17 percent compared to last year. That amounts to about 12,500 fewer people crossing the border each day.

After Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the state’s new immigration law, the Mexican government issued an alert, cautioning citizens that Arizona authorities could stop and detain foreigners in the state for failing to carry immigration documents. The President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon warned the new law would strain Mexico and US relations. Mexican state governors boycotted the annual US-Mexico Border Governor conference to protest the law.

Drop in Mexican Shoppers Hurts Arizona Businesses

The drop in Mexican visitors is bad news for southern Arizona businesses, which rely heavily on Mexican tourists and shoppers. According to a University of Arizona study, Mexican visitor spending funded almost 23,400 Arizona jobs in 2007-08. More than 24 million legal Mexican visitors spent about $2.7 billion at Arizona stores, restaurants, hotels and other businesses.

Store operators in the Arizona border town of Nogales now say their business activity is way down. Their customers from Mexico don’t like the wait at the border and they fear discrimination.

Tips for Better Border Crossings

Help maintain good relations with your Mexican customers or clients by passing along these tips for speedier border crossings:

  • Check border wait times. Estimated wait times for crossing the border into the US are posted by the CBP on its website, and the times are updated each hour.
  • Carry the right documents. For legal entry into the US, Mexican citizens, including children, must show a passport with a visa or a laser visa border crossing card. Lawful Permanent Residents in the US are required to present their permanent resident card (Form I-551) or other valid evidence of permanent residence status. Visit the US Embassy in Mexico website to learn more about visa requirements and applications.
  • SENTRI Pass . Mexican citizens who frequently travel across the border may want to apply for a SENTRI card. This pass allows holders to use special lanes at border crossings that are significantly less busy. Mexican citizens must have a valid US visa to apply and they must attend a 30 minute interview.

Commerce, tourism, and friendly relations with Mexico are important for Arizona and the rest of the US. Hopefully, the increased spending on border security will make it safer and easier for citizens of both countries to visit and do business across the border.

Questions For Your Attorney

  • What are the requirements for bringing a vehicle from Mexico into the US?
  • Are there different requirements for commercial trucks?
  • Are there restrictions on the goods that Mexican tourists can take back to Mexico from the US?
  • How do I legally bring workers from Mexico into the US?
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