Yuma becomes first border city to declare state of emergency due to migrant releases

The number of illegal immigrants detained at the Southern border and then released in border cities has risen to the point that Yuma, Arizona became the first city to declare a state of emergency Tuesday. Mayor Douglas Nicholls delivered that message during a press conference. The U.S. Border Patrol has been releasing migrants to Yuma’s shelter system for the last few weeks.

“There’s an imminent threat of having too many migrant releases into our community, and it’s above our capacity as a community to sustain,” Nicholls said as he announced the measure Tuesday.

The Border Patrol has released more than 11,000 migrant family members at nongovernmental shelters or bus stations along the border since March 19, when it began the practice of releasing noncriminal families directly from custody with notices to appear in court “as a last resort” as apprehensions spiked.

Mayor Nicholls, a Republican elected to the office in 2014, said he hopes that by declaring a state of emergency more border cities will follow his lead and then the cities can band together for more federal aid. Yuma is a city with a population of about 100,000. Their shelters and facilities are at capacity. Yuma is not a sanctuary city and there are no sanctuary cities in Arizona.

The mayor said that U.S. Border Patrol agents have released 1,300 migrants in Yuma in the past three weeks. The only shelter in the city is a former Salvation Army store with a capacity of 200. The city has no way of accommodating shelter for them. He’s concerned about the safety of his city’s citizens and of the migrants, too.

“I had to do something to change the discussion and to change the posture, to get more resources or get the situation resolved in one manner or another,” he said.

Without help from the federal government, Mr. Nicholls said he worried that there could be a “catastrophic situation” with migrants left to wander the desert city with no help as summer temperatures start to rise. The high temperature for Friday is predicted to be 100 degrees.

The process of declaring a state of emergency is that a governor requests the declaration of the president. So, in this case, Mayor Nicholls will send his declaration to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. Ducey said he’ll review the declaration once he receives it. However, it isn’t looking very hopeful for Mayor Nicholls. Ducey said he thinks it is the responsibility of Congress to handle the immigration crisis, not the White House.

Border cities are desperate for help. The Border Patrol has no ability to continue to hold migrants at the border because their shelters are full. Democrats raised a stink over a makeshift shelter under a bridge in El Paso that provided shelter in tents so it was shut down. There is no sign of relief in sight. The caravans from Central America continue to travel to the U.S. border and the policy of catch and release is once again in effect.

Meanwhile, border cities like Yuma are left to cope with a situation caused by no fault of their own. Mayor Nicholls points out that larger cities use non-profit networks to cope with the influx of those needing shelter and provisions.

Federal immigration authorities have said they are working with local nonprofit agencies to house and care for migrants after their release and before the move on to the interior of the country. Shelters in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas have been frequently full for months, with newly arriving migrants immediately replacing those departing.

Mayor Nicholls made the first move to ask for emergency aid. It’s a reasonable request. Even if Congress acted overnight (it won’t) the situation will be with us for the near future. Something has to be done to help border cities and towns. Setting free those asking for asylum or being detained for illegally entering the country with the requirement of appearing in court at a later date has failed.