Yuma, already stretched thin, preparing for more migrants with impending end of Title 42
Dec 21, 2022, 8:00 PM
(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
PHOENIX — As migrants started to be released in Yuma this week, local officials are preparing for extensive complications while the future of Title 42 remains fluid.
Border Patrol’s Yuma Sector was expected to release 50 migrants into city streets on Tuesday, with the possibility of releases becoming a daily occurrence, Mayor Doug Nicholls told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Gaydos and Chad Show.
Nicholls was informed at a meeting earlier in the month that releasing migrants into the streets of Yuma would be Border Patrol’s last option, according to a press release. Shortly after exiting the meeting, the mayor was told by headquarters that “releases to the streets of Yuma are necessary,” as it has the highest “in custody” numbers in the nation.
“They would no longer be waiting until the capacities currently being utilized in the system are exhausted,” Nicholls said. “This is a change of posture for management of the Border Patrol process of releasing migrants on their own recognizances after processing.”
Currently, around 1,000 migrants cross the Yuma border where a local nonprofit aids between 350 to 500 people each day to find transportation out of the Yuma area, Nicholls said. Remaining migrants are typically flown or bussed to other Department of Health Services facilities in San Diego and Tucson.
The mayor said that with the termination of Title 42 — a public-health rule that prevents migrants from seeking asylum on grounds of preventing COVID-19 — capacity at border sectors could be overwhelmed.
The Biden administration on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to end the asylum restrictions, but asked the court for a delay until at least after Christmas.
The administration made the plea a day after Chief Justice John Roberts issued a temporary order to keep pandemic-era limits on migrants in place. Before Roberts issued that order, the restrictions were slated to expire on Wednesday.
“Basically, this is just — in essence — opening the front door and telling them they’re free to leave,” Nicholls said.
“What this could potentially end up with is…people walking around the streets looking for resources, not knowing how to find those transportation options out of town, which to be frank, are fairly limited.”
The mayor said the surge at the border differs today compared to years ago, as the issue has seemingly switched from a survival issue to an economical issue.
“We have a lot more affluent people coming through. I don’t necessarily mean rich, but in 2019, when we were dealing with…the last surge, there was people truly walking across the border with grocery bags with their life belongings in them,” he said.
“Now we see people walking across the border with luggage like they just got out of the airport because they did just get out of the airport. They almost all have cellphones. It’s a different population.”
Following recent discussions with Arizona Gov.-elect Hobbs, Nicholls said she has expressed humanitarian concerns of those crossing through as well as the ones living in border communities.
Despite those concerns, Hobbs added that she wanted to remove the double-stacked shipping containers lined along portions of the border.
“That was her opinion, which led to the comment of my invitation to ‘come and see how things look,'” Nicholls said.
According to Nicholls, Hobbs said she would like to visit the border “sooner rather than later.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.