By Jennie Taer, DCNF
Yuma, ARIZONA — The influx of migrants crossing into Yuma, Arizona, has local officials worried that they can’t continue to address the border crisis. They’ve largely had to go it alone, with limited support from the federal government.
“Eventually, the emergency is going to overtake some of our resources. And we’re going to need a dedicated facility to make sure people aren’t dying in the streets because literally we’re entering the hardest part here, easily 110, 120 during the day,” Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The Biden administration hasn’t stepped in to secure the border to keep Yuma safe, Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot told TheDCNF.
“We have plenty of people in our communities that need help. And they’re not able to get that because now a lot of local resources are being taken away from the local communities to handle the fact that the administration is not doing their job,” Wilmot said.
As long as the large numbers of migrants, around 1,200 each day, crossing continue to come, everyone from Border Patrol to the local nonprofits won’t be able to keep up, according to Nicholls.
“What we’re dealing with is really just a sustainability issue,” Nicholls said.
“This current situation of affairs cost Yuma County about $450,000 in incarceration fees, which we’d never get back,” Wilmot said, adding that the majority of the people in his jail are drug smugglers, some of which are juveniles.
Between January and mid-June, Yuma county authorities have responded to 30 deaths in the desert, most of the bodies were identified as Mexican nationals, according to data from the Yuma County Medical Examiner. Those individuals were likely abandoned by their smugglers, Wilmot said.
“We’ve seen it down by the river corridor where individuals were not healthy, they weren’t fit. Yet, they decided to make the trip anyway. And they have died. It’s a humanitarian issue, yes. But, when you’re an administration that refuses to put into place what our Border Patrol, border security experts have said is needed to prevent this from happening, now this is on their hands,” Wilmot said.
Smugglers often keep migrants in stash houses, and Yuma has seen its fair share, Nicholls explained. The day before TheDCNF sat down with Nicholls, 15 migrants were discovered in a hotel room in Yuma and a U.S. citizen allegedly smuggling them was arrested, according to local reports.
High speed car chases as a result of smuggling aren’t unusual and Nicholls described a recent one that ended in a “big crash” near a local school.
The Arizona legislature introduced SB1070 in 2010, which enabled local law enforcement to charge certain immigration crimes. However, after the Obama administration sued Arizona later that year, the Supreme Court took away some of the enforcement tools the law afforded state authorities.
“The federal government consistently tells us that immigration is their responsibility, but yet, they’re not being responsible in doing their diligent duties,” Wilmot said.
Wilmot said in earlier conversations with Department of Homeland (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, he warned against scrapping many of the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
“Unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears. Same with this administration, and with what we warned them was going to happen,” Wilmot said.
Wilmot also described overwhelming situations where ambulances are having to respond to medical emergencies along the border and are getting swarmed by migrants wanting rides.
“Now, law enforcement has to go with them to keep the unrulies from doing that to the ambulance, so they can get the individuals that need medical care to the hospital,” Wilmot explained.
The local hospitals treat migrants daily for dehydration, malnourishment, and for forgoing insulin when they have diabetes, Edgar, a pharmacy technician in a nearby hospital, who spoke with TheDCNF without using his last name because he wasn’t authorized to speak, said.
“They’ll stay for a day or two, but, for most of them, it’s just fluids,” Edgar explained.
“None of that stuff is cheap,” he said, adding that a healthcare worker shortage is making things worse.
Wilmot said that over 223,000 people crossed and another approximately 23,000 people are known to have evaded apprehension into Yuma county, which are considered ‘getaways,’ so far in fiscal year 2022.
“That’s the same population as my county,” Wilmot said.
Neither DHS, nor U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) responded to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.
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