Migrant influx at Arizona border likely linked to ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy | Local News

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A short-lived increase in the number of migrants at the Arizona-Mexico border may be due to people trying to enter the United States before the “Remain in Mexico” policy restarts, which is expected to happen soon in Arizona.

The influx of migrants this week into the Yuma Border Patrol sector, west of Pima County, appears to have subsided. More than 4,000 undocumented migrants crossed into the country from Friday to Monday, Yuma Sector Chief Patrol Officer Chris T. Clem tweeted on Wednesday. The Yuma Sun reported on Monday that Border Patrol agents were overwhelmed with migrants, mostly from Cuba, Brazil and Venezuela.

But on Tuesday, images on social media from the border at Yuma showed a few dozen migrants still awaiting processing. US officials confirmed that the increase appeared to be short-term.

Officials and migrant advocates believe this recent spike in crossings — an increase of about 30% over the typical daily number in recent months — was linked to the Biden administration’s announcement to reinstate the program.” Stay in Mexico” from the Trump era.

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President Joe Biden shut down the program after taking office, but was ordered by a U.S. district court in Texas to reinstate it.

The program, also called Migrant Protection Protocols or MPP, returns migrants who entered the country without a visa or proper documentation to Mexico. They are then expected to expect a hearing there in a US court in about six months, by which time many migrants are considering seeking asylum.

The Department of Homeland Security restarted the program in El Paso on Monday and will expand it to seven ports of entry across the southern border, including Nogales, Arizona.

The Kino Border Initiative relief organization, in Nogales, Sonora, has been told by officials that the program will begin in Nogales on Monday, Dec. 13, spokeswoman Gia Del Pino said.

US officials said they could not confirm when the program will begin in Arizona.

“Customs and Border Protection stands ready for any potential increase in encounters with migrants as we strive to keep our borders safe and secure, while managing a fair and orderly immigration system. “said spokesman John Mennell.

Governor Doug Ducey has faulted the Biden administration for gradually reinstating Trump’s policy requiring asylum seekers to stay in Mexico pending immigration hearings.

The piecemeal implementation led to migrants rushing to other parts of the border and crossing into the United States before the policy was rolled out more widely, Ducey said Tuesday.

Lawyers prepare in Tucson

Casa Alitas, a nonprofit humanitarian aid shelter in Tucson, has seen an increase in the number of migrants from the Yuma area since Sunday, up to 200 people on Tuesday, its director of operations Teresa Cavendish said.

The shelter is ready to accommodate as many people, who will likely be there shortly before heading to their final destination in other parts of the country.

Cavendish said she expects that once authorities process the migrants who crossed over the weekend, the higher number of arrivals at Casa Alitas will decrease, as the stay-at-home policy Mexico is restarted in this region and more migrants will be directly sent back to Mexico.

The Yuma sector has seen a large number of families, many from South America, come to the border seeking asylum, with the number rising from around 790 in October 2019 and 2020 to over 21,600 in October .

The number of migrants fleeing to the United States from South America, Cuba and Haiti has increased over the past year as rising violence and worsening economic and political conditions, exacerbated by the pandemic and, in some cases, climate change is driving more people from their homes.

Del Pino said that once the Remain in Mexico program resumes, humanitarian aid groups in Mexico expect more migrants to arrive and need services. This could include more people from Brazil and Haiti, who may need services in languages ​​other than Spanish, as currently many migrants from these countries are allowed to wait in the United States for their court dates.

“Many organizations like ours that provide humanitarian aid, shelter and relief to migrants on the ground in Nogales are gearing up to be stretched in terms of capacity,” she said. “We expect to receive an influx of people arriving at the border. And depending on the response from the Mexican government, there will be no kind of financial assistance in terms of resources.

The Department of Homeland Security says anyone enrolled in MPP who is eligible will receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, the ministry says it will ensure that migrants enrolled in the program have their case heard in a timely manner and have the opportunity to meet with a lawyer.

Lawyers are in talks with the White House to better understand how the administration intends to deliver on the promise of legal advice to migrants, Del Pino said. “There’s a lot of ambiguity with these new guidelines and not a lot of direction as to how these things are going to roll out,” she said.

Migrants returned to Nogales, Sonora, are expected to have court hearings in El Paso, Texas, and Del Pino says that when the MPP was in effect under the Trump administration, many migrants who had to travel from Nogales to El Paso for their hearing appointment had difficulty paying the travel expenses to get there.

Officials ask for resources

Ducey on Tuesday demanded that the Biden administration do more to secure the US-Mexico border, addressing other public officials from a desk at the border in the Yuma sector as nearly a dozen people crossed between a breach in the border fence behind them, The Associated Press reported.

“We need the force of the federal government to secure the border,” Ducey told reporters. “It’s their job. We are calling on the Biden administration to do this.

The Republican governor said the Arizona National Guard will send a helicopter, six vehicles, four all-terrain vehicles and 24 personnel to assist law enforcement.

Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot said Monday that as Border Patrol agents struggled to deal with the large number of people crossing the border, some migrants needed medical attention and called 911. , asking for help from law enforcement and local hospitals.

“When it takes this resource from this community to solve this problem here, which should be managed by the federal government, it takes this resource from this community and it prevents them from being able to manage their normal calls for service in their communities,” he said. said.

US Democratic Senator Mark Kelly released a statement earlier in the week saying he was deeply concerned about the sudden increase in the number of migrants in the Yuma region. He said he was committed to “holding the Biden administration accountable for providing the resources and support necessary to ensure a secure border and a humane and orderly response in Yuma.”

“Arizonans deserve a coordinated federal response to this border crisis that does not burden our border communities,” Kelly said, adding that he introduced a bipartisan bill to address the issue.

This article includes reports from The Associated Press.

Contact star journalist Danyelle Khmara at dkhmara@tucson.com or 573-4223. On Twitter: @DanyelleKhmara

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