By ANITA SNOW
PHOENIX (AP) Overwhelmed border officials have started releasing migrants in rural Yuma County in Arizonas as more people arrive in hopes of settling in America amid a never-ending pandemic not allow the authorities to detain so many people.
Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls said the U.S. Border Patrol released a group of 20 people in the nearby community of San Luis on Monday, and several groups of similar size were released in the following days. The new versions worry local leaders who two years ago tried to manage the release of 5,700 migrants in the county of about 215,000 people over three months.
Immigration officers have typically released migrants to the United States after giving them their court date when they have no room for them in detention centers.
Yuma does not have the resources to house, feed and provide other resources for a massive influx of newly released migrants, Nicholls said. Migrants often do not speak English and need instructions on how to show up for court dates and other required appointments.
There is no capacity in our current non-profit system in Yuma, including shelters, Nicholls said. The only temporary shelter in the area closed its doors last year.
The new wave of migrant releases in Yuma is distinct from asylum seekers entering the United States on Friday in San Diego and next week in Texas as the Biden administration dismisses a Trump-era policy. Under the Migrant Protection Protocols Policy, also known as Remain in Mexico, migrants seeking asylum in the United States were forced to wait in Mexico for immigration court hearings in Mexico. United States.
Nicholl spent much of the week on the phone with federal and state officials, as well as nonprofit social service agencies, to prepare for any further arrivals.
The problem is an increase in apprehensions and insufficient staffing and detention capacity, the mayor said. I don’t think they should release these migrants into small communities that are not designed to care for them.
Customs and border protection said in a written statement that since April some of its detention facilities have reached capacity due to increased apprehensions at the border, combined with social distancing guidelines that do not allow the detention of as many people.
It has long been a practice that when long-term detention solutions are not possible, some migrants will be treated for removal, subject to an appearance notice, and released to the United States pending a future trial. immigration hearing, the statement said.
Stanford Prescott, spokesperson for the International Rescue Committee in Arizona, said the nonprofit was in discussions with federal officials transporting freed migrants from Yuma to larger cities like Phoenix, where it has a center. with 150 socially distant beds. He said another shelter in Tucson is also equipped to accommodate migrants.
Concern over the release of more people in Yuma has grown in recent days, with Arizona politicians calling on federal authorities to ensure their border communities are not affected.
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey and other elected officials have expressed concern about how large releases amid the coronavirus pandemic could affect public health.
The State Department said it has health protocols in place, including COVID-19 testing, for migrants released under the Stay in Mexico program. But it is not known whether people outside the program currently released at Yuma are being tested for infection.
It’s a national problem, not a Yuma problem, Nicholls said. We need a national solution.
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