Arizona’s Immigration Crisis: Here’s what KTAR News learned

Apr 19, 2019, 7:00 AM | Updated: 10:44 am

Arizona is one of the states most impacted by the immigration crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Tens of thousands of migrants have crossed the border in recent months to seek asylum, according to statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

In an effort to fully understand the complicated situation, KTAR News 92.3 FM reporter Peter Samore and videographer Matt Bertram toured the southern border, interviewed local officials and asked lawmakers about their proposed solutions.

KTAR News 92.3 FM presents Arizona’s Immigration Crisis covered a lot of ground over four days, so here are the highlights.

Part 1: Take a tour along the US-Mexico border

Border Patrol agents Justin Kallinger and Jose Garibay gave KTAR News a tour of 20 miles of the border barrier and the specific areas they are protecting in the Yuma Sector.

During the tour, KTAR News witnessed agents rescue a woman who was attempting to cross the border through a canal when she became caught up in the current.

Kallinger and Garibay explained the different types and sizes of barriers that line the border, as well as the various types of terrain the barriers must be built on.

For example, much of the ground near the border is covered in sand, sometimes leading migrants to use “carpet booties” to cover their footprints.

The agents explained that most of the people they are apprehending now are family units, when in the past they almost always dealt with single males.

Both agreed the expansion and addition of a border wall will reduce crime, human trafficking and illegal entries into Southwestern states, but it alone is not enough.

“We could use all types of different infrastructure, technology, additional manpower, camera towers,” Garibay said. “It’s a whole system that we need to complete our mission along the southwest border.

Part 2: How border towns are impacted

Farm workers who rely on trade between the U.S. and Mexico compete with other workers, truckers, shoppers and visitors cramming through the San Luis port into Yuma County.

They told KTAR News that they are also competing with migrants coming through the port without legal documentation, which slows down the lines of cars and pedestrians.

The asylum seekers force officers to come off the lines and delay searching cargo and vehicles for drugs and human trafficking, among other crimes.

This isn’t the only fear the farm workers have, though — President Donald Trump’s threat to shut down the border has many worried about how that would impact the economy.

“It would be catastrophic to the Arizona economy if the border was shut down,” Glenn Hamer with the Arizona Chamber told KTAR News.

Part 3: Phoenix-area nonprofits work to help migrants

All too frequently, agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement drop off thousands of Central American migrants outside of bus stations in cities like Yuma, Tucson and Phoenix, fresh from up to 20 days in federal detention.

Sometimes, the migrants are released on the streets of those cities.

Local nonprofits have stepped up to help provide migrants with basic resources and coordinate their travel plans, but many are overwhelmed by the number of people needing help.

In the absence of congressional action to change the laws and court decisions that have led to the release of migrants into Arizona communities, these nonprofits and other organizations have been looking to the state and federal agencies for help.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said the federal government should do a better job of communicating with states about when and where dropoffs will take place.

“What Border Patrol and ICE is doing in terms of surprising communities, dropping off asylum seekers and refugees with no forewarning, doing it at bus stops and random locations, is just no way to run a government,” he told KTAR News last month.

Part 4: Finding a solution at the US-Mexico border

Build the wall. Expand the ports. Change asylum laws. Find more immigration judges.

To many, these solutions seem simple to stop the Central American migrant surge impacting communities in Arizona and across the country.

It’s up to Congress and Trump to change the laws and expand facilities and resources, but that’s proven to be difficult — perhaps impossible.

Elected officials for Arizona, both Democrats and Republicans, agree there is a “humanitarian” crisis at the border but disagree on how to solve it.

Some call for changes to asylum laws and ICE policy, while others call for comprehensive immigration reform. Things often stall when it comes to down to a question of approving funding for the expansion and addition of border wall.

“It’s kind of like the frog and the boiling water,” U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) told KTAR News.

“You put a frog in cool water and then let the temperature rise and they don’t notice it. We’re kind of in that state.”

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Arizona’s Immigration Crisis: Here’s what KTAR News learned