TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — In less than a month, the Federal government is set to stop using a Federal Health law to limit immigration. Now authorities in Tucson are figuring out how they’ll deal with an expected surge in asylum seekers.
The Trump Administration used part of Title 42, the Federal Public Health law to restrict immigration in the name of reducing the chance of COVID coming into the US by crossing the Mexican Border. Now more than two years later, The Biden Administration is planning to lift the law—and deal with more than two years of pent up demand.
Title 42 let the U.S. limit requests for asylum and speed up deportations. That led to immigrants waiting in camps and shelters just south of the U.S.-Mexico border—waiting for a chance to convince immigration officers they have a credible fear they’ll be in danger from things like gang violence if they return to Central America.
Now authorities in the U.S. are worried about the effect of a surge of immigrants.
Gail Kocourek is with Tucson Samaritans, a group that helps immigrants at risk in dangerous desert crossings. She keeps track of immigration trends and says she does not see a new surge on the way.
“We haven't heard about any big groups of caravans coming. I just had a friend who returned from a month in Guatemala and she's been going there for years, spending a month taking medical aid into the mountain villages and she is not expecting a big surge of people coming from Guatemala.”
But that still leaves Mexican border cities like Nogales, Sonora with plenty of immigrants waiting for apply for asylum.
Kocourek questions whether immigrants presented a greater COVID risk than anyone else.
Pima County says it tested 25 thousand immigrants who came into the Casa Alitas shelter Catholic Community Services operates with the County.
The County says over 1200 tested positive for a five percent positivity rate and the rate for April is two percent. The Arizona Health Department says COVID rates statewide were 12.1 percent over the current span of the pandemic.
There are concerns about how the county will house any surge of immigrants.
The County says Casa Alitas can normally house about 250 asylum seekers per day before they move on to sponsor families around the country. Leased motel space adds about 180 spaces.
But Pima County estimates CBP could be releasing about 650 immigrants to the area each day.
Pima County says it’s working on improving transportation resources to help migrants move out of the area to families that sponsor them as their asylum cases go through the courts.
Federal funds have helped pay for Pima County’s immigration response but there are concerns Federal reimbursement will stop someday. For now Pima County says it has more than $1.2 Million to carry into next month.
Craig Smith is a reporter for KGUN 9. With more than 30 years of reporting in cities like Tampa, Houston and Austin, Craig has covered more than 40 Space Shuttle launches and covered historic hurricanes like Katrina, Ivan, Andrew and Hugo. Share your story ideas and important issues with Craig by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.
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