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County Administrator warns of crisis as asylum seekers come to Tucson

County Administrator warns of crisis as asylum seekers come to Tucson
Posted at 4:53 PM, Mar 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-24 21:37:48-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Asylum seekers continue coming into Tucson amid the pandemic.

Wednesday morning, in a 4-to-1 vote, the Pima County Board of Supervisors approved transporting them to the Casa Alitas Welcome Center.

Though, the Board of Supervisor still has concerns about the influx of asylum seekers coming in.

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry says this has the potential to become a crisis, similar to that of 2019.

To stop it, he’s asking for clear communication on the Border Patrol front.

He says on Tuesday, 72 people arrived at Casa Alitas and added the asylum seekers are mostly in family units.

“There were 16 transported from Ajo. 40 coming in a bus from Yuma, and 26 dropped off by ICE. So the most urgent problem we have is the transporting of individuals from Ajo,” he said during an emergency board meeting.

While the Board of Supervisors has had communication with Border Patrol, Huckelberry says another roadblock is getting clear information from the department.

“The notice is relatively short and sometimes it’s significantly inaccurate regarding the number of individuals being released. Last Sunday we were told 60 were going to be released, but 33 were released,” added the County Administrator.

He says without a proper headcount, they cannot arrange for proper transportation or set up housing for asylum seekers. COVID-19 is also making accommodations tricky.

“At the time of the surge in 2019, we still had both the Kino Event Center and the Old Pueblo Community Center as shelters. Those facilities are being used as either testing for vaccinating centers. The traditional capacity at Casa Alitas, which is about 300, is now reduced to about 70,” he said.

Huckelberry also says Border Patrol doesn’t routinely test asylum seekers for COVID-19, unless they are obviously symptomatic.

“For that reason we have provided rapid testing, to our nonprofits, to ensure that every individual taken in is tested,” he added.

On Tuesday, three asylum seekers tested positive for COVID-19 at Casa Alitas Welcome Center.

“The mother and the daughter are now in a hotel shelter for COVID isolation. The grandmother is now in ICU,” said the County Administrator.

Huckelberry says this can quickly become a perfect storm for health, housing, and transportation crisis and asks for open communication with the Border Patrol to avoid all three.

KGUN9 reached out to Border Patrol, but they have not responded with a comment on this issue.