/ Modified dec 11, 2023 4:21 p.m.

Ongoing surge of migrants renews concerns of overnight street releases

Pima County’s Casa Alitas assisted a record number of migrants in November — nearly 34,000. The surge is depleting resources faster than expected — sustaining fears of migrants being unsheltered in cities overnight.

Lukeville migrants 1 Border Patrol process hundreds of migrants on Dec. 5, 2023. Many are from African countries — Senegal, Guinea and Mauritania — and a smaller number are from India and Central and South America. Many say they came through a cut in the border wall.
Danyelle Khmara

The ongoing surge of migrants in Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, nearly 19,000 last week, is increasing the number of migrants served not just in Tucson, but also in smaller border cities like Douglas, where Border Patrol have been dropping migrants off for a few months.

Those migrants are bussed to more robust services in Tucson and Phoenix daily, but Daniel Duchon, the director of Emergency Management in Cochise County, says the last week has been the busiest yet, with the Douglas shelter keeping people overnight nearly every night of the week.

“If there was one bus that broke down or if Casa Alitas got full, and had to cancel one bus because they were full, then that one bus, that’s a margin of another 55 folks,” Duchon said. “So the whole thing is extremely precarious. I’m proud of this effort, but I don’t think people realize how close we are to unsheltered releases.” The shelter's overnight capacity is about 60, and the city is getting up to 130 migrants a day.

The high numbers of people, many hoping to seek asylum, is forcing the county to switch to a different federal funding source ahead of schedule. The new source comes with limits on the number of hotel rooms that can be reimbursed as well as the amount of transportation resources available.

The state Department of Emergency and Military Affairs took over transportation costs at the beginning of the month, helping the county continue to assist record high numbers of people. But even with the latest round of federal funding, a burn-rate of about $3.5 million a month would deplete the money by the end of February.

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