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Spending cuts trigger long lines and waits at Nogales ports of entry

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Spending cuts trigger long lines and waits at Nogales ports of entry

CREATED Mar. 5, 2013

Reporter: Marcelino Benito

NOGALES, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - Budget cuts in Washington are rippling right down to Southern Arizona and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. For you, it could mean backups and longer wait times at the border. But what does that mean for business?

It's business as usual at J.C Distributing, at least inside the warehouse. But if and when the trucks make it here is out of their control.

"The cuts to CBP are a national disaster," said Jaime Chamberlain, President of J.C Distributing.

Eighty-five million dollars slashed just like that. Customs and Border Protection will inevitably feel the pain. So will the businesses that rely on them says Chamberlain.

"We cannot have these cuts affect our business and continue to be successful," said Chamberlain. "We will lose our competitive edge."

Just four days in to the sequester and things already feel slower along the border. This is what CBP told us:

"CBP reduced overtime this weekend at ports of entry around the country and effects are already visible. Lanes that would have been previously open due to overtime staffing were closed...further exacerbating wait times at ports. In coming weeks, we will see additional impacts as furloughs take place."

"Everybody's feeling anxious," said Chamberlain.

Anxious because more closed lanes mean longer waits.

"Sometimes, days we have 8 to 12 hour waits," said Chamberlain.

Less staffing at the ports of entry in Nogales translates to a loss in commerce, foot traffic and financial hit for businesses across the border town.

"One thing we cannot afford to lose is our economic power," said Chamberlain. "Our ports of entry are the jewels of economic drivers."

So for now, businesses wait to see what happens next, hopeful Washington can reach a deal.

"How frustrated are you?" asked 9OYS reporter Marcelino Benito. "I think this will be a bump in the road, but it will be a bump in the road tougher than others," said Chamberlain. "But we will survive.

And this is really just the beginning. CBP says peak wait times at ports of entry could double up to several hours or more. There is also talk of doing away with Sunday commercial service at the ports. But CBP says they will work very closely with businesses to do the best they can with the resources they are getting from the federal government.

The worst of these cuts can still be avoided if Congress can reach a deal by March 27th.