The Mayor of Yuma is meeting with the White House about the release of migrants on the AZ border

Local and federal officials elected in Arizona this week urged President Joe Biden’s administration to review the ongoing release of migrants directly in Arizona border communities and provide additional resources to local governments and nonprofits helping migrants.

Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls practically met with White House officials Tuesday night to discuss the migrant release, which has been taking place in his city since February 15. Since that date, the U.S. Border Protection Agency’s Yuma sector has released more than 500 migrants from bus stops and other transportation hubs in Yuma, Nicholls said.

“My final question is that they are rethinking their publication guidelines,” the mayor told the Republic of Arizona. “And should they really be published in communities with very limited transportation that are actually very small compared to some other communities like Phoenix or Tucson or some California cities with a robust nonprofit structure?”

Nicholls drew parallels between the ongoing releases of the past few weeks and the situation in 2019 when the Yuma Sector released more than 5,400 asylum seekers, most of them within a three-month period from April to June.

They recorded nine days within that three-month period in 2019 that the Border Patrol released more than 100 migrants in a single day, Nicholls said. According to his count, there have been at least two such days since February 15.

Yuma does not have permanent migrant shelters. In April 2019, the mayor issued a declaration of urgency and brought together non-profit organizations in the area to open a Salvation Army-run emergency shelter for migrants released on the streets in an empty large shop. The shelter closed in September 2019 after the Yuma releases ceased.

Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls signs a letter of urgency on the release of migrant families during a meeting with the incumbent Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security.  Ken Cuccinelli in Washington, DC on December 19, 2019.

Nonprofits across Arizona have again stepped up private buses and shuttles to transport migrants released in Yuma to shelters in Tucson and Phoenix, where they will be tested for COVID-19 before their journey to their final destination with relatives in the United States United States resume states.

Nicholls said he wants the federal government to not only review policies but also provide funding and resources to border communities and nonprofits that do the brunt of the work in helping migrants.

“Why burden the local communities along the border?” he said. “It’s a national problem. It’s not a Yuma problem. So it has to be a national solution, not a Yuma solution.”

Nicholls, a Republican, said he had been in regular contact with the two Democratic Senators from Arizona about the releases. At least one of them, Senator Mark Kelly, had raised the issue directly at the White House since the publications began.

“Senator Kelly spoke directly to President Biden and (Homeland Security) Secretary (Alejandro) Mayorkas about the issue and urged DHS to establish the necessary federal resources and communications at the border,” said a statement from Kelly’s office.

Senator Kyrsten Sinema was also involved in these talks to press for funding and resources to properly handle the release of migrants in the state, her office said.

“Kyrsten and her team are in constant communication with local leaders in border communities, Arizona nonprofit groups, and federal agencies to ensure that Arizona communities get the support, support, and coordination they need during this challenging time,” said a Sinema – Speaker to The Republic of Arizona.

The White House did not disclose what was discussed in the meeting with Nicholls. However, they stressed that the majority of migrants reaching the U.S.-Mexico border remain subject to Title 42, a public health rule that allows U.S. border officials to immediately exclude migrants detained at the border in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Since Title 42 went into effect on March 21, the US has turned away nearly 400,000 people under the policy.

“In the narrow and limited cases where migrants are placed in alternatives to detention while deciding on their cases, COVID-19 testing is being done at the state and local levels, as well as with the help of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and local governments a consistent part of our approach and what we do as migrants on the border, “said Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, on Wednesday.

US Customs and Border Protection, the border patrol agency that also includes Border Patrol, told the Republic of Arizona that the majority of publications in the Yuma sector are “Title 42 inaccessible” people.

A growing number of migrants arrested by border guards along the US-Mexico border are not turned away under Title 42. For example, in January the Border Patrol took into custody nearly 13,000 of the 75,000 migrants they arrested that month.

Non-profit organizations in Arizona have reported that large numbers of the migrants released into their care are from Cuba, Venezuela and other Latin American countries.

The reason for this postponement is not entirely clear, although the Mexican government has announced that it will only allow the return of migrants from the countries of the Northern Triangle of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

In addition to Yuma, similar migrant releases are occurring on a larger scale in communities in Texan’s Rio Grande Valley, which remains the busiest crossing along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In any event, once border guards take custody of non-Title 42 migrants, they will be placed under the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs, either transporting migrants to detention centers or placing them in the custody of migrant shelters with notices to appear in court at a later date.

CBP said the Yuma sector is making every effort to get migrants into ICE custody after they have been processed at the border.

“It is believed that situations will arise where field commanders, in cooperation with ICE, decide to release foreigners at their own discretion, which is in line with current operational requirements and detention capacity thresholds,” said Macario Mora, CBP spokesman for the Yuma Sector . without going into detail about how high these capacity thresholds are.

The agency notes that Arizona nonprofits provide transportation to migrants released in Yuma and take them to migrant shelters in other parts of the state.

Nicholls said this is the main problem: Yuma’s transportation options are insufficient to handle the release of migrants to small rural border communities.

He thanked the nonprofits that assist migrants with transportation, but Nicholls also questioned how sustainable it would be for them to continue this work without government support.

“You already have other missions,” he said. “Why should they divert their money in a much-needed time when we have a pandemic and everything else is tense?”

Do you have any news or ideas for stories about the US-Mexico border? Reach the reporter at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @RafaelCarranza.

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