JIM SHARPE

We need an Easter basket of bucks delivered to the border—before Sunday

Mar 25, 2024, 2:00 PM

Less than two weeks ago, Gov. Katie Hobbs found herself begging on behalf of border towns — and the entire state of Arizona. She was hoping hundreds of millions of dollars would be granted by the federal government — so that migrants picked up by Border Patrol in our state will have a place to lay their heads. That is, somewhere other than the street. 

“We need these investments to keep our communities safe,” she said at the time. And boy, was she right.

I don’t recall her saying “pretty please with sugar on top,” to Washington but no matter how she got it done, the good news is that the new budget that was just passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden, has millions in it for the border. 

The uncertain news is how much of that money Arizona will get — and how soon we will get it.

 

And the bad news is that the latest numbers show that almost 50,000 migrants were arrested in the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector in February — the most, once again, of any sector along the U.S.-Mexico border. And 300,000-plus migrant encounters have occurred in the Tucson Sector since the fiscal year started in October. 

We really need that money.

That new federal spending package includes millions for border security (not the billions the Republican-rejected plan would have provided) as well as $650 million that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will distribute to nonprofits along the border.

Money for groups like Casa Alitas, which provides shelter, food, clothing, medical attention and travel assistance to asylum-seeking families after their release from Border Patrol custody.  

Diego Piña Lopez, the group’s executive director, told our TV partners at ABC15 Arizona that their funding is set to expire Easter Sunday. 

While it’s too soon to breathe a sigh of relief — because the money from that new budget is like a prize still hidden in a plastic Easter egg — when it does get cracked, it will mean Border Patrol agents will have a safe place to drop off migrants. 

But even when Casa Alitas finds out how much they’re getting, it could take time to process and that could mean fewer services in the interim.

Leaving moms, children, babies — and, yes, lots of young, single men of working age — on the street trying to figure out their next move after figuring out where their next meal is coming from and where they’ll lay their head tonight. 

Piña Lopez points out that this creates a compounding situation because “we’re not talking [about] one day where 700 people get dropped off in the streets. We’re talking about one day, followed by the next day, and the next day after that.”

When you consider how many people we already have occupying bus stops, ravines and underpasses, this will create a dangerously-compounding homeless situation for Arizonans — and a dangerously-compounding situation for the migrants who will be at risk of getting mistreated by the bad elements found on our streets.

Sadly, an element at least partially made up of other migrants: those young, single men I mentioned before. That demographic makes up the vast majority of troublemakers in all societies, whether they’re Guatemalan, West African, Chinese or American. 

It could get so bad, so quick, maybe Hobbs should say “pretty please with sugar on top” regarding the swiftness of the arrival of those dollars. 

And offer to pay for next-day delivery. 

Jim Sharpe

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We need an Easter basket of bucks delivered to the border—before Sunday