Arizona mayor declares state of emergency amid immigration crisis
Yuma, Ariz. — On the front line of Arizona’s border battle, agents gather names and offer water to migrants before taking them to detention centers. Seventy-two hours later, the migrants, mostly families from Central America, are released into Yuma, a city of 100,000 with just one shelter, a converted Salvation Army thrift store with 200 beds.
Yuma’s mayor declared a state of emergency, asking for state and federal funds.
“It’s like if a hurricane’s coming and you don’t prepare for it. This is the same kind of thing,” Mayor Douglas Nicholls said.
More than 24,000 families crossed in the Yuma sector between October of last year and this March, up 273 percent from the same period a year earlier. Immigrants can get stuck in Yuma for days because they can’t get a bus ticket out. If there were more buses, migrants could be moved out of the community quicker.
Despite the challenges, the city is full of heart. Ruth Velasquez gives away warm clothes at the bus stop.
“I have everything I need. But these people don’t,” she said.
Apprehensions at the southwest border are at a 12 year high. Last month, almost 9,000 of those detained were.
“What I think people don’t understand about this crisis is just the word itself. It’s a crisis. It’s not in their community yet, but it could be,” said Justin Kallinger, an operations officer with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
Asylum seekers overwhelming a border town, with little relief on the horizon.
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