Posted on November 3, 2004

Angry Mexican Trick-Or-Treaters Briefly Close Nogales Border

Susan Carroll, Arizona Republic (Phoenix), Nov. 2

Hundreds of angry parents and children shut down the border in Nogales on Halloween night after U.S. immigration officials refused to let Mexican trick-or-treaters without visas cross the border, authorities said.

The trick-or-treat tradition turned into an international incident after an “angry crowd” of more than 250 formed at the Dennis DeConcini port of entry Sunday night after immigration inspectors turned away children without passports or visas, said Roger Maier, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman. Nogales Police Department squad cars and the U.S. Border Patrol were dispatched to the port as backup in case of a “rush” on the border, he added.

“I guess they were kind of expecting to cross and trick or treat,” Maier said. “They started blocking lanes of traffic, and one lane became two, and pretty soon the whole area was blocked off. Our officers felt for safety concerns . . . that we’d better shut the port down.”

Trick or treating on the U.S.-side of the border is a long-standing tradition for many Mexican children, but they are required to have visas or passports, without exception for the holiday, officials said. Maier said inspectors let all families that proved they could legally cross across the border into the United States.

But some critics charged that the issue was not a lack of visas, but a reluctance to have scores of children asking for candy in Nogales, Ariz.

“It’s just that they don’t want the kids to come over and trick or treat on the U.S. side,” said Teresa Leal, 50, a Nogales native.

“These were little kids, you know?”

The port of entry, the busiest passenger gateway in Arizona, was closed at 6:45 p.m. and reopened about 7:30 p.m. after Mexican authorities helped disperse the crowd, Maier said.