The direct releases of migrants add to an already unique situation that has strained existing resources in Tucson.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that normally takes custody of asylum-seeking families once they have been processed, has continued releasing families in Tucson.
That includes migrants apprehended in the Tucson sector as well as migrants who crossed through the Yuma area. Pima County officials estimate that ICE has released about 7,000 migrants in Tucson in the past eight months.
On top of that, Border Patrol officials in El Paso have been busing hundreds of migrants each day to Tucson so they can be released there instead of El Paso, which has also been struggling greatly with the sheer number of migrant families.
As a result, when ICE is unable to take migrants into custody, Border Patrol has begun releasing families directly in Tucson. Border Patrol works with nonprofits to find space to house the migrants, but it doesn’t always work out.
“If they are at capacity, that’s when the decision is made to release people out into the community, and that’s traditionally been done … at local transportation hubs,” Bidegain said.
That’s something both city leaders and nonprofits want to avoid. Their concern is that, if left to fend for themselves, families will end up stranded or unable to navigate the transportation system in an unfamiliar country.
Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, who attended the Friday meeting, said that was one of the big concerns he took from the Border Patrol discussion.
“If the loaded buses from Border Patrol can go not to the bus station, but to the site of where the (nonprofit) is located, that would be a big help because that saves us a lot as a community,” Rothschild said.
Another concern Rothschild brought up was that migrant families from El Paso were being transported to and released in Tucson. He said such a move made little sense, especially when the asylum-seeking families were headed to the Eastern United States.
“If they’re moving east, why would you ever move them west?” he said.
By Rafael Carranza, for AZ CENTRAL
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