Busloads of asylum seekers arriving in Tucson amid a pandemic

Frontier towns in Arizona are preparing for the influx of migrants

As the Biden government focuses on immigration reform, it lures many newcomers to cross the border – creating confusion and conflict in border towns like Yuma.

Busloads of asylum seekers have arrived in Tucson, Arizona, for the first time since President Joe Biden began reversing the border policies implemented by former President Donald Trump.

Fewer than 200 people arrived this week, most from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, after being released by Border Patrol in Yuma, The Arizona Daily Star reported on March 5.

Asylum seekers stay in town for a few days before traveling to friends and families in other cities while their asylum applications are processed, according to Tucson officials.

Councilor Steve Kozachik, who led the asylum seeker care effort in 2019, said the city was on the verge of a sharp surge in migrants

The Border Patrol released thousands of asylum seekers to volunteer-run shelters in Tucson in 2019, many of them from Central American countries. The Daily Star reported at the time that some migrants were talking about gangs trying to recruit their children, widespread corruption and other problems.

Hundreds of volunteers worked to assist asylum seekers until 2020 when the Trump administration blocked access to the shelters and forced migrants to wait for months in border towns like Nogales, Mexico.

As the Biden government focuses on immigration reform, it lures many newcomers to cross the border – creating confusion and conflict in border towns like Yuma.

Chuck Huckelberry, Pima County’s administrator, said the main difference now is the pandemic that has forced asylum seekers to meet additional requirements, such as: B. Perform quick COVID-19 tests and comply with space restrictions.

Huckelberry said the Casa Alitas Shelter, the primary Tucson residential home that works with the city and Pima County, held 250 people in 2019 and is now limited to 65.

Diego Piña Lopez, program manager at the shelter, said the shelter’s resources have not yet been strained, but the volunteers are preparing to reach capacity.

District officials have asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a grant such as that used in San Diego to rent hotel rooms for asylum seekers, Huckelberry said. It hasn’t been approved yet.

Kozachik said housing migrants could provide much-needed business with hotels and restaurants struggling as a result of the pandemic. He also called for a “productive response” from several federal lawmakers, including the US Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema.

Last month, Sinema and Kelly sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking for resources to help asylum seekers and develop a strategy for coronavirus testing. Republican Governor Doug Ducey also sent a list of questions and concerns.

Sinema will “continue to work across parties to secure our borders, protect our communities and ensure that migrants are treated fairly and humanely,” said a statement from her office.

Kelly spoke directly to Biden and asked the DHS to set up the necessary federal funding and communications at the border, his office said in a statement.

Continuation of reporting

Download the FOX 10 News App for the latest local news.

Comments are closed.