Arizona Gov. Hobbs monitoring border, Yuma Mayor Nicholls says migrant surge has begun
By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- A five-point plan by Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs to deal with what happens Friday when Border Patrol loses its ability to immediately deport those who enter this country to seek asylum includes lots of ideas but is short on specifics.
And much of what she is saying will happen already is taking place.
The governor said she intends to continue using state resources to ship migrants who have been released from Border Patrol custody to other parts of the state and country.
She also promised executive actions, though with no details.
"The situation is fluid,'' Hobbs said. "We're going to continue to monitor.''
One option, she said, is sending National Guard troops to the border.
Arizona already is doing that, with the 180 soldiers doing routine -- and non law-enforcement -- duties to help free up Border Patrol officers. Hobbs said there could be more, but can't say how many and what they would be doing.
And how much for emergency shelters?
"We don't know the numbers because we don't know the number,'' Hobbs said at a press briefing Monday on her plans.
"We don't know what the need is actually going to be,'' she said. "We're dealing a lot with speculation.''
All that goes to the question of how much of a crunch there will be when the Title 42 authority to deport migrants ends at midnight Thursday night and federal border agents lose the authority to simply send asylum seekers back to Mexico.
Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls said the surge already is beginning.
"About a month ago, we had 300 people a day crossing the border in the Yuma sector,'' he said.
Two weeks later the daily figure hit 600. Sunday it reached 1,000.
"And this morning, at 8 o'clock, there was already 500 people that have crossed into the Yuma sector,'' Nicholls said. "This is not stopping anytime soon.''
If there was a common theme to Monday's briefing it was that everyone there was blaming Washington.
"This is a federal government problem,'' said Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos. "And for the state to have to take it on, for each county to have to take it on without funding, without any resources, without any housing or food or health care for these migrants, that's just not right.
"This is a national issue,'' he said. "The federal government leadership has failed to make good on this national issue.''
The governor also lashed out at Washington.
"Without much more robust action from the federal government, the current situation will only get worse,'' the governor said. "I'm afraid the federal government is unprepared to meet the demands of the expected influx.''
Hobbs also released copies of letters she sent more than a week ago to the president and Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary asking for what they intend to do.
"As of today, we have not received an adequate response,'' she said.
The governor said she is counting on "a very large pot of (federal) money'' to deal with the fact there are going to be hundreds, if not thousands, of migrants released into this country, all of whom will need shelter. But what is missing -- and what Hobbs said she needs -- is a guarantee that those funds will be focused on border communities.
"Right now, we're in competition with all of the states for that funding,'' she said.
Still, the governor said there are contingency plans to deal with the immediate problem.
Hobbs said that the new budget she and Republican lawmakers are finalizing will have increased dollars to deal with the homeless. But she's not happy with the idea of some of that cash being funneled off to deal with the end of Title 42.
"I will tell you, the intent isn't necessarily to be used on the shelter,'' Hobbs said. "We shouldn't have Arizonans paying for something that's a federal responsibility.''
The governor's preparedness list also includes having the state Department of Public Safety assist local sheriffs and law enforcement with public safety and drug interdiction.
But DPS Director Jeffrey Glover insisted he will not be diverting officers from other duties, including highway safety. Instead, he said, sworn officers with other duties can be called in to help.
The transportation aspect of the governor's plan is actually a continuation of something started by Doug Ducey, her Republican predecessor.
Ducey, however, was sending busloads to Washington with no actual arrangements for what would happen to them when they got there -- or even if Washington was where they wanted to go.
Hobbs, on taking office in January, instead transitioned that into adding flights, though with an eye on putting the migrants closer to families and organizations that can provide support.
But the bottom line, she said, is the state just can't handle the problem on its own.
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