Kelly, Sinema say Arizona needs more federal funds to secure the southern border

Dec 20, 2023, 6:50 AM | Updated: 12:23 pm

SSP funds needed to help undocumented migrants...

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials process migrants in Lukeville. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona’s U.S. senators have asked leaders with the Biden administration for more federal funding to help border communities.

“We are facing a growing, unsustainable border crisis,” Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema said in a Dec. 15 letter addressed to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and two other officials.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell and Customs and Border Patrol Acting Commissioner Troy Miller were the other recipients.

The letter urged Mayorkas, Criswell and Miller to allocate more funds from the Shelter and Services Program, which Congress passed earlier this year.

Why do senators think Biden administration is shortchanging Arizona?

The way FEMA distributes those SSP funds is a particularly sharp thorn in Kelly and Sinema’s sides, though.

The senators said FEMA gave New York City and Chicago upwards of $115 million in SSP funds. In contrast, FEMA gave Arizona $77 million in SSP funds.

“This has left Arizona’s local communities on the hook to manage the border crisis due to Washington’s inaction,” the letter said.

The Biden administration is shortchanging Arizona, according to the letter.

The senators cited President Joe Biden’s signings of two continuing resolutions in September and November. The acts were intended to provide continued funding to various programs that could help the border crisis, according to the letter.

However, neither Kelly nor Sinema has seen a penny of the cash Biden promised.

“To date, CBP has not allocated the additional SSP funding provided under either CR despite the dire need to manage the worsening and unmitigated border crisis,” Kelly and Sinema said in the letter.

They urged FEMA, CBP and DHS to take immediate actions to give Arizona’s border communities the cash support they need. It’s necessary to keep communities and migrants safe, they said.

How else is Arizona seeking federal assistance for border?

It wasn’t the first time Arizona’s senators demanded federal action last week. They sent a Dec. 11 letter to Biden echoing Gov. Katie Hobbs’ pleas for financial support and manpower.

Both letters came in the wake of U.S. officials shutting down the Lukeville Port of Entry earlier this month. Officials said they shut the port to focus on dealing with a large surge of illegal border crossings in the area.

Hobbs told reporters she was “extremely frustrated” with the Lukeville closure.

As a result, she signed an executive order Friday to send the Arizona National Guard to the southern part of the state to provide support for the border crisis.

The most recent letter from Kelly and Sinema urged the leaders of FEMA, CBP and DHS to allocate SSP funding no later than Dec. 22.

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Kelly, Sinema say Arizona needs more federal funds to secure the southern border