This week is one of the busiest shopping seasons on the border, but after hundreds of federal agent were diverted from international bridges to help with a surge of migrants, retailers and other businesses are fretting about how hours-long wait times will impact them.
It took Ciudad Juárez resident Norma Martinez about 90 minutes just to get halfway through the pedestrian line at the Paso Del Norte Bridge bridge Saturday afternoon on her way to shop for clothes, umbrellas and other goods she resells at her store across the Rio Grande. She said her young son’s feet began to hurt, so the people in front of her allowed her to skip ahead.
Otherwise, she said, they probably would have waited more than two hours to get through U.S. Customs. Normally, Martinez said the line is about 30 or 45 minutes.
She’s just one of the thousands of border residents that have been forced to grapple with a drastic increase in bridge wait times after President Donald Trump’s latest effort address a growing influx of immigrants — many of them Central American families with children — who cross the border to seek asylum.
The Department of Homeland Security said last month it was redirecting 750 Customs and Border Protection officers from the ports of entry in El Paso, Laredo, Tucson and San Diego to assist U.S. Border Patrol agents in processing undocumented immigrants. The reassignments have caused massive delays at international bridges for pedestrian, vehicular and cargo traffic in the weeks leading up to Holy Week.
That has merchants concerned about how the administration’s decision to pull hundreds of agents away from their duties at the international bridges will impact the city’s retail sector — especially now at the beginning of Holy Week, one of the busiest seasons for cross-border shopping.
“We are really concerned. Historically Mexican nationals shop a lot during the holidays, especially with the Easter holidays right around the corner,” said Cindy Ramos-Davidson, the CEO of the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Jon Barela, the CEO of the Borderplex Alliance, a nonprofit focused on promoting business and economic development in Ciudad Juárez, El Paso and New Mexico, said Mexican shoppers are responsible for 15 to 30 percent of El Paso’s retail trade, depending on the time of year.
And since federal officials pulled agents from bridge duty, Ramos-Davidson said average wait times for passenger vehicles at El Paso’s international bridges have reached 160 minutes or more, about three times the normal wait.
She said international travelers, mainly from Ciudad Juárez or Chihuahua City, will still likely brave the long lines, but they might decide that shopping is less of a priority than visiting family. The chamber, which has 1,300 members in the El Paso area, recently conducted research and found that more than 50 percent of Mexican tourists won’t cross only to shop if wait times are more than about 45 minutes, she added.
After making it across the bridge Saturday with her son, Martinez said she’ll likely cut back on the number of trips they make to shop in Texas.
“After what we saw today we’d probably think more about making the trip,” she said. “Maybe we’ll come once a month” instead of two or three times.
Russian disqualified from Tango competition for punching his partner
A Russian participant in the World Tango Championships in Buenos Aires has been disqualified for violence towards his partner, the organizers said Wednesday.
The incident happened after the duo, a husband and wife, took part in the semi-final of the competition on Tuesday in the Argentine capital.
Organizers condemned the assault plus "assisted the victim and made the decision to disqualify the dancer," said a source with the Championships who declined to be named.
Officials did not name the couple in order "to preserve the identity of the victim who declined to file a complaint."
‘His mommy should have told him she loved him a little bit more’: CNN analyst eviscerates Trump over ‘chosen one’ comments’
On Wednesday's edition of CNN's "The Situation Room," analyst Gloria Borger laid into President Donald Trump for his bizarre press conference anointing himself "the chosen one."
"'I am the chosen one,' and that comes after the president re-tweeted a conspiracy theorist radio host who said that he is like the second coming," said host Brianna Keilar. "So what do you make of all of this?"
"I think maybe his mommy should have told him she loved him a little bit more," said Borger. "I don't know. It is hard — it is hard to know what to make of this. Some people will say, as Trump says, 'Oh, I was only joking when I said all of that stuff.' But the truth of the matter is that he does this all of the time, and talks about how wonderful he is, and if you recall during his speech at the convention when he talked about the problems the country was facing he was saying 'I alone can fix it.'"
Trump’s ‘fake concern’ for Jews doesn’t mask his anti-Semitism, say critics
"By his continued encouragement of white supremacy and his daily racist attacks on immigrants and people of color, Trump is making the American Jewish community less safe by the day."
President Donald Trump doubled down on his accusations of disloyalty to Jewish-Americans who vote for Democrats during an impromptu press conference Wednesday, prompting a fresh round of recriminations from critics.
"If you want to vote Democrat, you are being very disloyal to Jewish people and very disloyal to Israel," the president said during remarks to reporters on the White House South Lawn.