Arizona leaders urge federal officials to properly fund state’s border shelter services

Mar 27, 2024, 11:24 AM

Asylum seekers board a bus to a shelter in New York City on May 18, 2023. Arizona leaders say feder...

Asylum seekers board a bus to a shelter in New York City on May 18, 2023. Arizona leaders say federal funding for services in border communities can mitigate street releases in other parts of the state and country. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Arizona leaders are urging the Biden Administration to make sure the state gets its fair share of the $650 million recently allocated for border shelter services — and soon.

“We need to ensure that FEMA gets that money to Tucson, to Pima County as soon as possible. They need to prioritize communities at the border, not communities in the interior,” U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton (D-Arizona) told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Tuesday.

“The interior needs support as well, but in the past they gave more money to New York … than they did to border communities. They need to reverse that.”

The new funding for the Department of Homeland Security’s Shelter and Services Program (SSP) is part of the $1.2 trillion spending package signed by President Joe Biden on Saturday.

Arizona leaders disappointed with previous border services funding

Stanton and other Arizona leaders have been disappointed with how previous SSP funding was distributed.

On Monday, Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly and independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema sent a letter to federal officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, asking for the new SSP funding to be “swiftly” allocated “and adequately meet the needs of Arizona communities.”

“Pima County, in particular, has been the border region most severely impacted in the last year, yet was only awarded $12 million in SSP funding — 1.5% of the total,” the letter says. “Due to this insufficient funding, Pima County now faces a budget shortfall and will be unable to continue providing services starting April 1, 2024, without additional federal support.”

Stanton, along with Democratic Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, sent a similar letter after the House passed the spending package last week.

How do border NGOs benefit interior U.S. cities?

Non-governmental organizations that aid migrants in Arizona need additional federal funding to continue their work, which mitigates street releases in other parts of the state and country, Stanton said.

Stanton lauded the work of Casa Alitas, which helps migrants seeking asylum with shelter and travel after their release from Border Patrol and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention.

“What they’re doing in Tucson helps to stop chaos in New York and Chicago and the other cities because by having them come to Casa Alitas and stay there for a few days, they can have a plan about a sponsor somewhere in the United States and not go to a homeless shelter in New York,” he said.

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Arizona leaders urge federal officials to properly fund state’s border shelter services