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Councilman Kozachik: City predicts spending $100K weekly on asylum seekers' needs

Asylum seekers arrive in Tucson.jpg
Posted at 6:48 PM, Mar 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-09 00:11:58-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Asylum seekers are arriving in Tucson, and Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik says the responsibility is falling on the city and the county and it’s time for the feds to step in.

RELATED: Asylum seekers arrive: Inside Casa Alita's migrant shelter

Kozachik tells KGUN 9 the city predicts it’ll spend about $100,000 per week if the federal government doesn’t step in. He adds FEMA has the dollars to help.

“Frankly, FEMA is sitting on the dollars, that's what FEMA's got the money for. That's what our federal representatives are there for-- to kick these funds loose for their local constituents to help take care of this --what is really a federal problem that we're managing for them at the local level,” he said.

He said instead the local government is hearing the federal government is working on it.

He explained welcoming migrants into the Tucson community as they continue their journey is nothing new. He said what is different is that we’re in the middle of a pandemic.

“We don't have the big array of partners that we had three years ago pre-COVID. Churches aren't even meeting in their own congregations right now so I'm not being critical of them. We don't have the volunteers, many of them were seniors,” he said.

RELATED: Asylum seekers arrive: Casa Alitas needs volunteers

For about a year, asylum seekers were waiting across the border for their date in court but now under the Biden administration, they are able to wait in the U.S.

RELATED: Biden to slowly allow 25,000 people seeking asylum into US

In Tucson, Kozachik explained more asylum seekers are arriving than shelters have room for and it’s causing the city to scramble.

“We have like one partner now, in terms of our church and our shelter, but we're going to have to do things like hotel rooms, and that's going to cost money.”

He says asylum seekers are only staying in Tucson for two to three days.

While they are here, the county is testing them for COVID-19— a service that already has an uncertain future.

RELATED: Pima County's free COVID-19 testing continues for now

Kozachik said the Ward Six office is taking donations— gift cards for food and hygiene products.