Due to the giant financial influx provided by Mexican shoppers across the border, Arizona extends special privileges to Mexican nationals who possess a Border Crossing Card, essentially extending the border 75 miles into the state. However, a multi-agency push could extend that imaginary border to cover the entire state of Arizona, allowing roughly 1.2 million Mexican visitors to travel freely throughout the state without having to file an I-94 form.
This “border zone” has existed for decades for mostly commercial purposes, and extends 25 miles into US territory along the length of the US-Mexico border. That zone was extended to 75 miles in Arizona in 1999, which includes the outlets in Tubac, AZ along Interstate 19 and the City of Tucson. According to Nogales International, The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) is proposing to extend the current border zone to the entire state in an effort to strengthen the statewide economy. The City of Phoenix is located in Maricopa County, and the metro area is home to roughly 4.5 million people—along with many retail stores.
The MAG is supported by the Intertribal Council of Arizona and other business and economic groups, and plans to present its proposal—the Tourism and Shopping Initiative—to the Department of Homeland Security in the spring. MAG Chairman and Youngtown Mayor Michael LeVault said that studies show such an expansion of the border could generate an additional $181 million in spending and 2,179 jobs in 2016.
According to the US State Department, the Border Crossing Card (BCC) also serves as a B1/B2 visitor’s visa, and is usually valid for ten years after it is issued. Potential recipients must be Mexican citizens (and possess a valid Mexican passport), meet all eligibility requirements for the B1/B2 visa, and “must demonstrate that they have ties to Mexico that would compel them to return after a temporary stay in the United States.”
Arizona ports of entry are very busy. According to Teresa Small, spokeswoman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Tucson Field Office:
In fiscal year 2014, about 8.4 million privately owned cars crossed through an Arizona port, carrying more than 16 million passengers. Another 8 million privately owned vehicles carrying roughly 15.5 million passengers crossed into Arizona between October 2014 and August 2015.
The main complaint about the proposal stems from Nogales community leaders who feel the expansion might take away from the city’s border economy, once border crossers have the option to drive up to Phoenix for more expansive retail options. No concerns were raised in the context of this article with regards to the potential for fraud or security breaches that might result from this expansion, or additional scrutiny that might come from an increase in BCC applications.
Sylvia Longmire is a border security expert and Contributing Editor for Breitbart Texas. You can read more about cross-border issues in her latest book, Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer.