PoliticsImmigration48 Hours on the Border


Business leaders say immigration troubles hurt legal border trade

Jaime Chamberlain of Chamberlain Distributing in Nogales, Arizona, said a surge in migrant crossings interferes with efficient cross-border commerce.
Posted at 3:46 PM, Mar 19, 2024

In Nogales, Arizona, business leaders understand something often lost in all the discussion of people crossing the border: That there's a positive value of being next to Mexico with all the cargo that comes across. 

In Nogales alone about 400,000 trucks per year bring in millions of dollars worth of products you use and food that you eat. At Chamberlain Distributing, workers waste no time moving fresh food off trucks coming from Mexico, or onto other trucks that could move it all over the United States.

On this day at the border, it’s corn. But on other days it could be fresh tomatoes, squash, grapes —  it’s a menu too long to list.

“We're very, very fortunate to be on the border here,” says Jaime Chamberlain of Chamberlain Distributing.

Supreme Court lifts stay on TX law allowing police to arrest migrants
The U.S. Supreme Court.

Supreme Court lifts stay on TX law allowing police to arrest migrants

The law allows any police officer in Texas to arrest any migrants suspected of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.


Chamberlain says cross-border produce has been a booming business for a hundred years, and his family’s been in it for more than half a century.

“Over $30 billion worth of cross-border business is done here in Nogales between manufactured goods and fruits and vegetables," he added. "Over $11 million a day is spent in the state of Arizona through Mexican nationals crossing our ports of entry every single day. That's an incredible number and an incredible economic generator that we have.”

The trucks also bring in goods manufactured in Mexico. Companies from the U.S. and the rest of the world use factories in Mexico to build cars, electronics, medical devices and other products. Businesses on the U.S. side provide components and expertise.

Better stability and shorter supply chains have helped Mexico replace China as the United States' number one trade partner.

What happens when migrants arrive at the border wall?
A U.S. Border Patrol agent speaks with migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

What happens when migrants arrive at the border wall?

Border Patrol tells us migrants are picked up as soon as possible, but what happens to them largely depends on what resources are available.


Scripps News Tucson came to Nogales on a quiet weekday. But on weekends the area is busy with Mexican shoppers enjoying more variety and better bargains on the Arizona side of the border.

A pedestrian gate makes it easy to bag up bargains and head home to Mexico. Right now, a strong peso helps their money go farther.

However, surges of immigrants can choke off the commerce. Chamberlain is a leader on the local port authority. He says when Homeland Security takes inspectors off the ports to process migrants it interferes with fast, efficient inspections that speed up cargo and stop illegal drugs.

“Our legal commerce is being hindered by DHS and the White House," Chamberlain said. "Isn't that the administration's decision to pull these people away from our ports of entry? And for us as businessmen and -women, we need that security. We need our ports of entry to be as efficient as possible. We need them to be staffed correctly and we need them to be funded correctly.”

And he says that will protect business so valuable, it’s a matter of national security.

This story was originally published by Craig Smith at Scripps News Tucson.