ARIZONA NEWS

Yuma sees biggest year-over-year migrant spike as temporary shelters make a comeback

Sep 22, 2021, 4:45 AM
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)...
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Temporary tent shelters have reopened in Yuma as migrants from the Caribbean and South America resulted in a 1,038% surge in apprehensions year-over-year through the sector, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“On Friday, we had groups of 45, 49, 55, 56, 78, and then several other groups just under that,” Vinny Dulesky, special operations supervisor with Yuma Sector Border Patrol, told KTAR News 92.3 FM. 

There were 91,841 apprehensions at the Yuma Sector in August, the highest of all nine of Border Patrol’s sectors.

Up to 60 Haitians each day are crossing through the Yuma Sector, but nothing like the large numbers deported in recent days from Del Rio, Texas, as they flee the island following the country’s last earthquake and presidential assassination.

Agents have reopened the temporary tent shelters they closed last year when migration plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic and with tighter immigration policies imposed by the Trump Administration.

“We’ve got some makeshift tents that we’re putting up and we can connect air conditioning,” Dulesky said. “We done a little bit of modifications to some buildings that we would normally use for operations to turn them into housing facilities.”

Dulesky also reported a record 2,400 apprehensions in his sector over the past weekend, about two-thirds of them are family units who get to stay in the country with their sponsors.

“They come in, we process them, we get them into the system initially, and then we give them a court date,” Dulesky said.

“So while they’re being adjudicated, while they’re going through their immigration process, they have to be released into the country.”

They take advantage of what Dulesky recounts as the “Flores Settlement” — and they’re released after 20 days. Single adult migrants don’t have that legal protection.

“If you’re a single male or single female, no children involved, then we can probably ‘Title 42’ you, or send you back to the country from which you came,” Dulesky said.

That code allows for deportations in a crisis, like the ongoing pandemic.

Meanwhile, Washington, D.C. is slowly providing more money to house, feed and even diaper the extra migrants.

“In 2019 — and that’s one of the lessons learned — (mass migration) happened so fast that each sector was using its own operational budgets,” Dulesky recalled.

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Yuma sees biggest year-over-year migrant spike as temporary shelters make a comeback