Reporter: Marcelino Benito
NOGALES, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - The last time the Republican presidential contenders took the stage, the small border town of Nogales got a shout out during the debate. One local business owner is trying to channel that publicity to help make Arizona's ports of entry the best in the country.
Jaime Chamberlain, President of Nogales-based J-C Distributing, wrote a pointed letter to all four GOP presidential candidates. He went one step further with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The two discussed border trade for over an hour at an event before the February 22nd debate. Whatever Chamberlain said struck a chord with Gingrich.
"I talked last night, for example, with folks who are of Hispanic background from Nogales who are in the import-export business dealing with Mexico every day," Gingrich said during the debate. "They don't want a border that's closed, they want a border that's controlled, that has easy access for legality and impossible access for illegality. And that's the model I think you can talk about in any community of any ethnic background in this country."
Nogales was thrust to the forefront of the debate, but Chamberlain says it will take more than talk to see change along the border.
"We right now do not have a secure port of entry," Chamberlain said. "We do the best we can with the officers we have at CBP, but we can do better."
Wait times are just too long he says. J-C Distributing trucks at times wait anywhere from 6 to 8 hours to get through. When companies are trying to get 1,600 to 1,700 trucks through per day, it creates a problem.
"We are in a battle of our lives for business," Chamberlain said.
Arizona's ports of entry are also severely understaffed, 500 Customs and Border Protection officers short. He wants the government to invest in these ports of entry. It just makes financial sense says Chamberlain. U.S. trade with Mexico reached a record $460 billion dollars in 2011. Chamberlain says there's no time to waste. Work is already underway to remodel the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales. It's expected to be the most modern and energy efficient port of entry in the United States.