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Local groups brace for a surge in asylum seekers

Casa Alitas volunteers.jpg
Posted at 5:03 PM, Mar 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-22 20:18:07-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — Local groups and governments are bracing for a surge of people seeking asylum. A Tucson city councilman says more federal funding is needed to avoid a humanitarian crisis in our community.

Casa Alitas is a short-term shelter helping connect people seeking asylum to family in the U.S. before their immigration hearing.

“Our hearts are knit with these people who are desperate,” said Cecilia Villegas. Cecilia and her husband Ruben are volunteers and were donating clothes Monday.

They are concerned the facility may soon be overwhelmed by an influx of immigrants.

“Thats why we are donating,” said Ruben. “Because I know the resources are very small for the amount of people coming in.”

Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik says the Biden administration rolling back the previous “remain in Mexico” policy was the humane thing to do, but that it didn’t come without consequences.

“CBP have let us know that these numbers are going to escalate, and they are going to escalate like now,” he said.

The surge in immigration comes as local groups and governments are still hampered by social distancing requirements.

“We had multiple different places where the city and county was helping house them, because of COVID everything has changed,” said Kozachik. He says more federal funding is needed at the local level or people seeking asylum could end up in Tucson with nowhere to go.

“We need the federal government to step up with FEMA dollars and get them to Tucson so we can do things like rent hotel rooms, which are vacant right now. Occupancy is less than 60 percent.”

Cecilia says she believes our community can meet the need.

“If we just give and become generous people we can all help, we all have something to give,” she said.