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Pima County to pay for transportation of asylum seekers to Tucson shelter

Asylum seekers cross an international bridge from Mexico into the United States on March 17, 2021 (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Due to an influx of migrants being dropped off in Ajo, Pima County voted Wednesday during an emergency meeting to enter contracts with companies to provide transportation of asylum seekers from Ajo to Tucson’s Casa Alita’s shelter.

The board in a 4-1 vote agreed to front the cost, with hopes the federal government will reimburse them later on.

Pima Supervisor Adelita Grijalva explained the issue is not a partisan one and said this was a health crisis.

“We potentially can help mitigate [COVID-19] by transporting people, by making sure we get them the services that they need,” Grijalva said. “This is not an endorsement one way or another.”

Supervisor Steve Christy was the only one to vote no, claiming immigration is a federal problem and they should be the ones taking care of the transportation issue.

The county’s administrator Chuck Huckelberry told KTAR News 92.3 FM that the need for transportation comes after a change in policy from federal authorities.

“The border patrol has taken the position in 2021 that they are releasing asylum seekers or family units where they are essentially apprehended,” Huckelberry explained, adding this prevents them from taking migrants directly to the Tucson shelter like in previous surges.

Huckelberry said migrants can only be transported up to 35 miles from where they were originally apprehended.

It is expected that federal authorities will soon begin dropping off migrants at Three Point, Arizona, a small town 30 minutes away from Tucson.

Meanwhile, the county is also providing rapid COVID-19 tests to non-governmental organizations to test the migrants. Huckelberry said the Department of Homeland Security only tests migrants if they’re showing symptoms of the virus.

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