1 of 4 | Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs urged President Joe Biden to reopen the shuttered Lukeville Port of Entry in her state, saying its closure has sparked an "unmitigated crisis" in illegal crossings from Mexico. File Photo by Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons
Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs has urged President Joe Biden to reopen the shuttered Lukeville Port of Entry in her state, saying its closure has sparked an "unmitigated crisis" as she diverted funds to address the situation.
Hobbs said Friday she would support redeploying National Guard troops to Lukeville -- a crossing located in a remote stretch of Sonoran Desert -- were it to be reopened to help deal with a worsening migrant crisis in the area, but will insist on the federal government paying for it.
Hobbs, a Democrat, called on the administration to reimburse her state more than $512 million she said it has already spent on border operations as she announced the launch of Operation SECURE, under which a new Border Security Office will be established within the Department of Homeland Security.
The Lukeville Port of Entry was closed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection last week because of a surge in migrants elsewhere attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.
CBP agents stationed at Lukeville are currently deployed to other, busier crossings.
"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," Hobbs said in a statement. "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."
Some of the SECURE money would support continuing Arizona's program of busing migrants to other states, she said while blaming "the federal government's failure to secure our border.''
Lukeville's closing was met with criticism by both of Arizona's U.S. senators.
Sen. Mark Kelly, a Democrat, and independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema called the closure "an unacceptable outcome that further destabilizes our border, risks the safety of our communities, and damages our economy by disrupting trade and tourism."
Hobbs was set to travel to the crossing on Saturday to survey how National Guardsmen may be used if deployed.
In an open letter to Biden, she called on the president to reposition 243 National Guard troops currently stationed elsewhere in the state's Tucson Sector to Lukeville to support a reopening initiative. The area was by far the busiest of nine sectors along the border in October for attempted illegal crossings.
"The Biden administration says that they need manpower because they don't have enough manpower to both process migrants and keep the port of entry open,'' Hobbs spokesperson Christian Slater told the Arizona Daily Star. "So we are offering manpower to reopen the port of entry.''
National Guard troops are not controlled by a state's governor but report directly to the U.S. Department of Defense.
Asylum seekers wait in line for food near El Chaparral plaza in Tijuana, Mexico on March 21. Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | License Photo