February, according to Customs and Border Protection data released Monday – the highest monthly total in more than two decades.
As many brace for increased numbers of migrants entering the immigration system, the number of arrests could eventually decline. One of the reasons the number is so high is actually because of Title 42. The rate of people crossing multiple times has increased dramatically since the policy was enacted, inflating the numbers, as more than half of migrants apprehended were expelled as part of public health policy. .
Arizona also recorded its highest monthly count in March since at least October 2019, with more than 57,600 encounters, at least 25% more than any other month this fiscal year.
March marks the halfway point of fiscal year 2022, and there have already been nearly 275,000 migrant encounters at Arizona’s southern border, compared to about 312,000 for all of fiscal year 2021.
Border Patrol’s Yuma Sector, southwest of Pima County and spanning eastern California, has seen a huge spike in crossings that began last year, many involving families and mainly people from countries further away from the United States, such as Cuba, Colombia, Brazil, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
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The Tucson area saw a substantial increase in March compared to previous months. In the Tucson area, the majority of arrests were of single adults from Mexico.
What is the next step
Migrants from countries further afield than Central America are less likely to be removed under Title 42.
Of the migrants not deported under Title 42, those deemed eligible to seek asylum are processed through Customs and Border Protection and then sent to a local nonprofit organization that assists asylum seekers, who helps arrange transportation to a family member who is their sponsor in the United States, usually in another state.
The Pima County Grants Management Department is developing a budget with community partners to accommodate the expected influx of asylum seekers after Title 42 ends.
The county’s current spending on the services it provides, which include food, housing, transportation and other services, is $1.6 million per month, according to Regina Kelly, director of the Department of grant management.
The county has covered these rising costs using grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, sometimes paying upfront and then reimbursing.
The $1.5 trillion federal spending bill that became law on March 15 included $150 million for FEMA’s emergency food and shelter program to help migrants.
Pima received its first $3.2 million installment of the new grants last week, which officials say will cover costs through June, based on current spending. And if the county is inundated with asylum seekers in June, it will ask FEMA for more money, Kelly says.
Along with the county’s plan to cover expenses, community partner Catholic Community Services is making adjustments to accommodate more asylum seekers, said Teresa Cavendish, director of operations for Catholic Community Services.
The non-profit organization runs the Casa Alitas reception center, where asylum seekers usually go for a few hours or overnight and can receive clothes, a shower, food, COVID tests and vaccines, and help arrange transportation to their sponsors.
Everything indicates that there will be a significant increase in the number of people needing help, especially in the Tucson area, Cavendish said.
The Tucson sector is likely to see more change than the Yuma sector as Title 42 is used in the Tucson sector at a much higher rate.
Of the 122,600 apprehensions in the Tucson area this fiscal year, 82% were deported under the policy. Conversely, in the Yuma area, only 11% of 149,100 arrests resulted in a Title 42 deportation.
When the Department of Homeland Security no longer deports individuals under Title 42, it will treat those who are unable to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States, as a valid asylum claim, for be deported under immigration laws.
Also, if the number of people entering the immigration process increases, there will likely be more people in immigration detention and prosecuted in court. Neither the Arizona District Attorney’s Office nor the courts would say whether they anticipate higher numbers or if there are preparations underway.
With the growing number of border arrests, some politicians have called for the prosecution of Title 42, including the two US senators from Arizona, Democrats Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema.
“It is unacceptable to end Title 42 without a plan and coordination in place to ensure a secure, orderly and humane process at the border,” Kelly said in a statement on April 1, following the announcement of the end of title 42.
“From my many visits to the southern border and my conversations with Arizona law enforcement, community leaders, mayors and nonprofit organizations, it is clear that the lack of a this administration to address this crisis will further strain our border communities.” The Department of Homeland Security says it has a plan. Congress recently allocated $1.45 billion for a possible wave of migrants at the southern border. The DHS plan includes additional resources to increase detention and processing capacity at the border and to remove those who cannot prove a valid state residence claim, as well as to work with other countries to process root causes of migration.
Many of those who say Title 42 shouldn’t be rescinded yet speak more of its need for border security instead of its pandemic precautionary purpose.
Kelly and Sinema are part of a bipartisan group of senators demanding more details and introduced legislation earlier this month to delay the end of Title 42 by at least another 60 days to give agencies more time. to develop plans to deal with a possible influx. migrants.
Additionally, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who is running for the Senate, is one of three Republican attorneys general suing the Biden administration over the decision to end Title 42.
“If Title 42 ends, it will lead to an even greater border crisis that will have a devastating impact, not just on the border states, but across the country,” Brnovich said in a tweet earlier this month.
Cities not equipped
Betto Ramos, coordinator of a migrant resource center and migrant shelter in Agua Prieta, Sonora, says the number of people they serve has increased dramatically over the past year and especially in recent months.
In almost 16 years of existence, they have welcomed more than 80,000 migrants, including more than 30,000 in 2021 and 14,000 in the first three months of 2022. They currently serve around 200 people. a day, but sometimes more, like last Monday, when about 80 people arrived every four hours.
By the end of Title 42, Ramos believes the number of migrants they serve will decrease. People are unlikely to cross many times and are more likely to be deported to their home country if they are not allowed to stay in the United States.
The Resource Center and Refuge, partners of the binational Presbyterian Frontera de Cristo Frontier Ministry, have no position on Title 42, Ramos says.
“We know the policies are only getting stricter,” he said. “After Title 42 is lifted, migrant people will suffer more. … All policies in Mexico and the United States, in my experience, do not
favor the immigrant population.
Not all migrants arriving in Agua Prieta, south of Douglas, Arizona, attempted to cross there. Some are transported by Customs and Border Protection from Nogales or Sasabe, which are 100 to 200 miles apart, and dropped off at the border.
One of the reasons the number of encounters has increased over the past two years is actually due to Title 42. The tally is the number of times Border Patrol apprehends someone crossing the border, rather than the number of people apprehended.
While there were more than 221,000 encounters across the entire southern US border in March, nearly 56% of those people were deported under Title 42 or immigration law. , according to court documents.
Since many migrants are dropped off just on the southern side of the border, often in small towns that have few services for them and may be over 100 miles from where they first crossed, many try to cross again, which inflates the number of apprehensions.
In 2021, 27% of encounters at the U.S. northern and southern borders involved individuals apprehended more than once by Border Patrol. The figure was 26% in 2020 but only 7% in 2019, before Title 42.
Many migrants are now arriving due to different issues in their home countries, Williams says.
Political and economic distress, violence and natural disasters, which in many cases have been exacerbated by the pandemic, are forcing more people to leave their more distant countries of origin, such as Haiti, Cuba, countries in South America South. In addition, the pandemic has made it more difficult for people to migrate to South American countries or for already established migrants to stay.
Those in favor of ending the policy, such as the Kino Border Initiative, a binational organization that provides humanitarian aid to migrants in Nogales, Sonora, say it undermines migrants’ rights under national and international law. to apply for asylum, and leaves migrants to wait in border towns in often disastrous and dangerous conditions.
There are around 700 migrants in Nogales waiting for the chance to apply for asylum, of whom around 500 have been waiting for more than six months, said Joanna Williams, executive director of the Kino Border Initiative. Williams estimated that 75% of those on hold are families.
“The end of Title 42 should be done because it’s a moral issue,” Williams said. “It should be done because of the humanitarian issue, because just at a basic level we need a system where we operate within the law. And the law says people should have access to the asylum and so there should be a channel for that.