Opinion: Migrants Abandoned in Yuma

Photo by Donald Giannatti

By Kyler Van Vliet

Custom and Border Protection holding facilities have been at maximum capacity since April of last year and now migrants are being released into Yuma County. 

Due to a rise in border apprehensions combined with social distancing guidelines that don’t allow for as many people to be held in one particular space, CBP has released a group of 20 people into the neighboring community of San Luis. Several more similarly sized groups were let out in subsequent days.

Yuma County is not new to sheltering released migrants. Two years ago, Yuma saw the release of 5,700 migrants into the county of about 215,000 people over a three-month period.

Two years ago however, there was a non-profit shelter for people to stay at. That sole temporary shelter in the area closed in 2020. 

CBP officials have released these migrants with court dates for their future immigration hearings, but Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls says Yuma does not have the resources to house, feed and provide other resources to a large influx of newly released migrants.

Nicholls also spoke upon the issue that migrants often do not speak English and need instructions on how to show up for court dates and other required appointments. They rely on the help of the United States government to provide such amenities as housing and food. 

A quick solution to help both the migrants and Yuma County would be to drop off the migrants and any future migrants into larger cities like Phoenix, which has a migrant shelter with 150 socially distanced beds. Tucson also has a shelter well equipped to house any migrants released into Arizona. 

Not only are these migrants being done a disservice, but so are the citizens of Yuma County now that there is an influx of people being dropped off into their community during a world-wide pandemic. 

The State Department said it has health protocols in place, including COVID-19 tests, for migrants released under the Remain in Mexico program. But it is unclear if people outside the program who are now being released in Yuma are being tested for infection or not. 

This truly is a problem that state officials need to step in and help, not just a problem for Yuma to deal with.