Nogales merchants feel the chilling effect of the Trump rhetoric as business slows

By Angela Martinez | Photos by Rebecca Noble

Many of President Donald Trump’s campaign proposals, like building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and strengthening the Border Patrol are in the works, and many immigrants are acting with caution by deciding to abstain from crossing the border in order to feel and remain safe from rumors of deportation and danger.

The historic Morley Avenue in Nogales is lined with rows of stores like Kory Mercantile & Co. and Bracker’s Department Store, which were established in the early 1900s and have been run by family generations and descendants of pioneer merchants. Many middle class Mexican consumers cross the border every day to buy everything from milk, bread and eggs to clothing, televisions, computers, shoes, hardware, auto parts and more.

According to the City of Nogales website, retail sales hover around half a billion dollars annually.

One of many currency exchange locations in Nogales, Sonora.

Nogales is Arizona’s busiest port of entry among the state’s border towns. This allows companies to enjoy the advantages of accessing two different labor forces, tax systems and governments.

Laura Moreno has lived in Nogales, Arizona, for 40 years and has been an employee at Bracker’s Department Store for 13 years.

“All of the propaganda and media impacts our business a lot,” Moreno said.

She said she believes many businesses are closing in Nogales because 90 percent of the customers shopping on Morley Avenue are crossing the border from Mexico.

A young boy looks through the bars separating the line to cross the border from the rest of Nogales, Sonora on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016.

“They are afraid to cross because for any reason, Border Patrol agents might take their visas or passports and send them back.”

There were a total of 3,420,708 people who crossed the Nogales border in 2016, according to the Bureau of Transportation statistics.

Although the number of people he drives declines, shuttle driver Gary Vasquez believes everything will remain the same.

“The value of the dollar has never been the problem because sometimes it’s all the way up at 22 and we are fine,” he said. “The problem is President Trump and his policies; some people tell others they will deport you and it’s just not true, they cannot do that, all people do is gossip.”

Vasquez has worked driving people from Nogales across Arizona for 19 years.

Since Trump’s election, the US dollar-peso exchange rate has had intensive fluctuation, spiking to 21.96 pesos equaling a dollar, according to a macroeconomic trends website. Moreno said many politicians believe Nogales to be a dangerous place where there are many casualties and violence in the streets, when in reality, it’s the opposite.

A sidewalk scene in Nogales, Ariz. on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016.

She lamented that the people who make their livelihood working on Morley will have to wait for the point everything closes.

“I hope President Trump will bring us work and improve the economy, I hope he isn’t so hard on my people and treats us better, because we have actually seen this is a critical situation, that there is something that people bring,” said Sara Osuna, an employee at a Nogales money exchange house.

Many in Nogales have lived long enough to see the border go through significant changes, with some remembering the time there was no inspection of cars or items.

“All our lives we have crossed,” said Susana Juarez, a frequent shopper from Nogales, Sonora. “I think that right now, nobody wants to come, my sister and I just talked about it. We remember how crossing the border was before; you would come and go much easier back then, now they have check everything.”

“I hope President Trump will bring us work and improve the economy."

The Nogales border has both options of crossing by car or by foot. When crossing into Mexico, Mexican border patrol randomly checks bags and suitcases of people entering, while the U.S. inspects and questions each person or vehicle individually. The State Department issued an obligation for all U.S citizens to carry passports or border crossing cards for re-entry to the U.S. in 2009.

“Well, in reality, we still cross the border to shop because it is cheaper here,” Juarez said. “Who knows if it will change in the future.”

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