Yuma, Arizona has seen nearly 250,000 migrants cross into city of 100,000 in past year
Yuma is known as the ‘sunniest city on Earth’ but it is now experiencing a drop in tourism thanks to the migrant crisis, DailyMail.com has learned
It’s known as the ‘sunniest city on Earth’, the winter lettuce capital of the USA, and the inspiration for 2007 western film 3:10 to Yuma – but in the last year, the small Arizona town of Yuma has become as famous for migrants as it is for movies.
Over the past 12 months, almost 250,000 people have flooded into the city of 100,000 – lured by gaps in the border fence and a Border Patrol sector stretched to the limit.
What has followed, as a result, is a $20million bill for medical services for migrants at the hospital since January, locals claiming they are being shot at by cartel traffickers, 48 dead bodies discovered in the last six months, a drop in tourism, and a homeless shelter so overwhelmed, it was forced to lock its doors at one point.
Yuma has also become the origin for many of the migrant buses headed to Washington DC, New York, and Chicago – prompting howls of outrage from DC Mayor Muriel Bowser who declared a state of emergency after receiving 4,000 migrants, and Mayor Eric Adams who claimed homeless shelters in New York have been inundated.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago branded Texas governor Greg Abbott ‘racist’ for sending several busloads of people totaling 60.
The border city of Yuma, Arizona has been bearing the brunt of the mass influx of migrants entering the US daily, thanks to gaps in the border fence that have lured in almost 250,000 people in the last year. Pictured: Immigrants in Yuma prepare to be transferred to other ‘sanctuary’ cities in the US via bus
Yuma is on the front line of the US’s southern border crisis, with 24,424 people crossing the Sonoran Desert into the city in July, the most recent month that figures are available
Above, immigrants receive toiletries and Covid tests at a processing center before being bussed out of the border town
But for the people of Yuma, 60 is just a drop in the ocean.
’60? We have 800 coming every day,’ one elderly local who lives close to the infamous ‘Gap’ at the Morelos Dam told DailyMail.com.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, Yuma mayor Douglas Nicholls said: ‘You have mayors from Washington DC and New York City that are complaining about a couple of thousand people over three or four months – we’re seeing those numbers monthly or even weekly.
‘If those few thousand people are having an impact, imagine the impact of over 200,000 people.
‘I think what it is, is a wake-up call for them. They want to have them in their communities, they want to be a sanctuary city.
‘Well, this is what being a sanctuary city is – being open to receiving people. Complaining about being sent 60 people seems hypocritical, to be frank.’
Yuma is on the front line of the US’s southern border crisis with 24,424 people crossing the Sonoran Desert into the city in July, the most recent month that figures are available.
That amounts to a 400 per cent increase on the previous year which was itself a 2,399.6 per cent spike on the numbers seen in 2020.
Most of the migrants are drawn to the area by the relative ease of crossing the border – according to Mayor Nicholls, there are 50 breaks in the border wall along the 126-mile Yuma sector, including the ‘Gap’.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (left), who has tried to block the gaps with 60 double-stacked shipping containers, began sending migrants to D.C. on buses in May after the situation became too much for the state to handle. Yuma mayor Douglas Nicholls (right) believes the busloads of migrants arriving at liberal ‘sanctuary’ cities will be a ‘wake-up call’ for officials
Tourism and agriculture – the lifeblood of the town – have also been affected amid the spike in border crossings, with Mayor Douglas Nicholls telling DailyMail.com that people have been put off visiting Yuma which boasts a panoply of historic sites
The spike in migration is thanks to the relative ease of crossing the border – according to Yuma mayor Douglas Nicholls, there are 50 breaks in the border wall along the 126-mile Yuma sector, including the ‘Gap’ (pictured)
In desperation, Arizona governor Doug Ducey has attempted to block some of the crossing points with makeshift walls made of shipping containers, including at the Morelos Dam
The border cuts through the Cocopah Indian Reservation (pictured) which refuses to erect a fence, leaving several miles of open land across the border
Todd Bensmann of the Center for Immigration Studies said: ‘There’s a few things about Yuma.
‘One is that there are big gaps in the wall there that are attractive because you can walk right across.
‘The Border Patrol in that sector is very thin – there’s not enough so they can’t do anything.’
He added: ‘This is the perfect confluence of circumstances. Furthermore, in California, ironically I guess, there’s a lot of wall.
‘You can’t just cross from Tijuana – there’s layers of wall. The wall in California covers a lot of that border – it’s older wall.
‘So, they get funneled to areas where there’s big gaps in the wall and thin Border Patrol on the other side.
‘They come into Tijuana or come up to Mexicali. There’s good roads and highways that go through Baja and Sonora.
‘You can take a bus – you can get on buses and the buses take them right on over to the Gap so it’s a great place to cross.’
Last December, Mayor Nicholls declared a state of emergency – still in effect – after migrants began flooding into town, overwhelming the local homeless shelter.
Several miles of open land stretch across the Cocopah reservation, where there is very little Border Patrol
Jose Esquival, who works at the Crossroads Mission, told DailyMail.com: ‘We had them lined up across the street.
‘We give them food and clothes, let them come in and shower, eat and there was another moment where they were lining up out to the railroad – people were trying to jump on the trains.
‘We had to start locking the doors. There were hundreds of them. We started putting out five to six big trash cans outside and they would get overfilled and would start pouring everywhere.
‘They started putting their own little tents up. In the end we couldn’t help – we only have so many blankets and so many pillows.
‘It got to the point where one person would ask for a shoe and then two other guys would rush up and fight for the shoes. It got really bad.
‘Shortly after that, we locked the doors but we still had people camping in the entrance.’
Tourism and agriculture – the lifeblood of the town – have also been affected with Mayor Nicholls telling DailyMail.com that people have been put off visiting Yuma which boasts a panoply of historic sites, among them a 1926 railway depot and a Wild West jail.
Over two days last weekend, DailyMail.com watched as 10 buses left the Regional Center For Border Health just outside Yuma where migrants are given Covid tests before being sent on
One elderly local who lives close to the infamous ‘Gap’ at the Morelos Dam told DailyMail.com there are at least 800 migrants coming in every day
One of the consequences of the uncontrolled border crossings is a $20million bill for medical services for migrants at the hospital since January
He said: ‘Yuma on the national stage is defined by the [migrant] situation which is dramatically unfair. Our community is a young, thriving, growing community.
‘It’s a place that I chose to raise my family, it’s a place my family chose to raise me – it is an amazing community.
‘Unfortunately, it’s overshadowed by the stigma and that’s just inappropriate. I do like to talk about all the good things that the good people of Yuma are doing.
‘That’s something that over time has worn on our community – lost opportunities, people afraid of coming by for tourism.
‘Being right on the border, that’s what we’re known for and that’s great. Then there’s people visiting our community for various things from the Colorado River to the historical monuments here, our military history in this area.
‘There are many things that happen here as well as our $2.5billion agricultural industry that are impacted by perception.’
Last December, Mayor Nicholls declared a state of emergency – still in effect – after migrants began flooding into town, overwhelming the local homeless shelter
Nicholls said Yuma’s ‘social infrastructure’ is ill-equipped to handle migrant families coming through or ‘migrants at all’
The Yuma sector of the border, 126 miles long, has seen an almost 300 per cent increase in ‘border encounters’ – migrants arrested by Customs and Border Protection agents – this year, compared to the same time frame in 2021
An elderly couple living close to the border fence who declined to give their names told DailyMail.com how the husband had been shot at by coyotes while taking a walk. In a photo obtained by DailyMail.com, the pair of coyotes can be seen halfway across the Morelos Dam crossing
In desperation, Arizona governor Doug Ducey has attempted to block some of the crossing points with makeshift walls made of shipping containers, including at the Morelos Dam.
But the new walls have yet to make a difference to the numbers coming in, with many now making their way over the border that cuts through the Cocopah Reservation which is home to a Native American tribe that straddles the international border.
As a result, approximately 5,700 people still cross each week and of that number, half are expelled immediately, while the rest are bussed out of the city to destinations that include Phoenix, Tucson and cities on the East Coast.
Over two days last weekend, DailyMail.com watched as 10 buses left the Regional Center For Border Health just outside Yuma where migrants are given Covid tests before being sent on.
The majority were families: men, women, some pregnant, and their children.
Mayor Nicholls said: ‘It’s [the buses] one of the things I’ve been advocating for since the beginning because if you look at our community, the social infrastructure we have, there’s nothing set up for migrant families coming through or migrants at all.
Yuma boasts a panoply of historic sites, among them a 1926 railway depot and a Wild West jail. Pictured: General view of Downtown Yuma, the ‘Gateway of the Great Southwest’
Local businesses in Yuma, Arizona. The city is known as the winter lettuce capital of the USA and was also the inspiration for 2007 western film, 3:10 to Yuma
General view of the Crossroads Mission which houses homeless residents. The center was inundated with migrants earlier in the year
‘We have a couple of shelters, a food bank and different facilities but they’re at capacity or over capacity serving our community. So, to add an international population too – that is a huge impact.’
While most of the migrants coming into Yuma wait to be picked up by Border Patrol so they can claim asylum, some have no intention of being caught.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot branded Texas governor Greg Abbott ‘racist’ for sending several busloads of people totaling 60
According to an elderly couple living close to the border fence who declined to give their names for fear of the cartels, they were awoken last week by a minivan waiting to collect migrants who had cut the border fence – a process that takes approximately 17 minutes.
The group of 14 was long gone by the time Border Patrol agents arrived. The couple also told how the husband had been shot at by coyotes while taking a walk.
In a photo obtained by DailyMail.com, the pair of coyotes can be seen halfway across the Morelos Dam crossing – one was later caught and found to have been robbing would-be immigrants.
They also told of meeting migrants wandering along the rural road that leads to the area, including a Cuban doctor who planned to join relatives in Florida.
The couple said the new section of wall had helped and had meant they were no longer woken by Border Patrol cars and helicopters but told DailyMail.com they blame President Biden for the situation they find themselves in.
‘We’ve been here nine years and you get to know who should be here and who shouldn’t,’ the wife told DailyMail.com.
‘Most of them [the migrants] just want a better life but there’s always been drug types. It’s gone up in the last year.
‘When I heard Biden had won, I just knew the word would get out down to Mexico and I thought, ok, here we go.
‘It’s been worse than I thought. Biden effectively said, come on in everybody.’
Mayor Nicholls told DailyMail.com of a 70-year-old woman who has lived on the border all her life but now feels the least safe she has ever felt due to migrants appearing in her garden looking for food and water.
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser also declared a public emergency after thousands of migrants were bused to the nation’s capital from Texas and Arizona – and she set aside $10M for a new office to address the crisis
In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams claimed homeless shelters have been inundated after migrants after governors in border states sent them to traditionally liberal cities
He too blames the federal government for failing to shore up the border and says change cannot come too soon.
He said: ‘When President Biden came into office, on day one he removed all those measures that were controlling the flow and we saw an immediate uptick.
‘So, it’s not suspect, it’s not a guess, it’s a direct correlation between the actions of the two presidents and how they impacted the flow.
‘Wholesale policy change is one thing but incremental would be good too. If you just started processing more people that are coming across and not releasing people, that would produce a dramatic and immediate change in behavior.
‘Because people would change their plans if they knew their neighbors had done it and a few months later, they’re back where they started but $5,000 poorer.’