TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — New details have been released about what Border Patrol is calling a soft-sided facility in Tucson to help process migrants crossing into the United States.
KGUN 9 requested the email from the Mayor's office from Border Patrol to City of Tucson officials and others that outlines the plans for the facility that’s expected to be up sometime between the end of April, beginning of May.
"The City of Tucson will continue to be a strong partner - as we have been during previous surges under past presidential administrations - to provide humane, dignified care for asylum seekers during their brief stop in Tucson. Currently, the City is supporting a temporary shelter for individuals and families seeking asylum at our local hotels as they await transportation to their final destinations. We are seeking reimbursement from the federal government for our expenses." said Mayor Romero in a statement to KGUN 9.
The email was sent Friday as part of a follow-up to a weekly meeting of a humanitarian working group that includes Border Patrol, local government, and non-governmental partners said the facility gives the agency the ability to process more people, according to the Mayor's office.
Border Patrol wrote that the facility is meant for 500 people but will ultimately have a capacity between 150 and 200 due to the pandemic.
The facility is currently being built on Los Reales Road, according to the email.
Similar facilities have popped up along the southern border in Texas. Another facility is expected in Yuma, Arizona.
"While any "tent-like" structure is a sub-optimal solution, it is imperative that any new facility is able to provide humane care with adequate COVID-19 precautions, especially for unaccompanied children who have already endured trauma no child should have to experience. The crammed conditions that we have seen in other facilities in other states are simply not acceptable," Mayor Romero continued in her statement to KGUN 9. "The right to seek asylum is a basic human right that is enshrined in international law. It is unfortunate that some are choosing to exploit the current situation for photo-ops and to create division. The City of Tucson stands ready to be a part of the solution as the Biden Administration unwinds the inhumane policies of the Trump Administration that turned away children and families who have experienced unspeakable acts of violence, political persecution, and discrimination."
KGUN 9 also reached out to Council member Steve Kozachik who has been a part of the meetings as well.
He said he doesn’t think the facility is needed.
“What's concerning about that, is they're tents and we have the ability to lease hotel rooms here locally to put them in more appropriate conditions. These are people who've been on the road traveling. They're coming from all sorts of horrendously dangerous situations,” Kozachik said.
He said the Department of Homeland Security says unaccompanied minors will be housed in the facility, but he thinks the issue of unaccompanied minors is being created.
“By definition, DHS calls anybody who does not show up with a parent, as an accompany so if they show up with an older sibling, if they show up with aunts or uncles or grandma or grandpa, or friend, or family friends who they left their home, home origin country, they are separated at the border, and they are then become enclosed unaccompanied minors,” he said.
He said the local government can handle the situation in a much more humane way.
“The humane thing to do would be to leave them connected with those same people they're traveling with, don't put them in a tent, and reimburse the city in the county for the hotel space that we are already leasing and coming out of pocket to fund," said Kozachik.
He added the local government has already been using hotel rooms for migrants, whether they’re COVID positive or not because there just isn’t enough room.
He said it’s costing north of $100,000 per month. He explained FEMA has told the city to submit invoices for the rooms and they will be reimbursed on a case-by-case basis.