SALT LAKE CITY — The mayor of Yuma, Arizona, has issued a proclamation of emergency, saying the border city lacks adequate resources to respond as the Border Patrol releases increasing numbers of migrants from custody.
“There’s an imminent threat of having too many migrants released into our community, and it’s above our capacity as a community to sustain,” Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls said Tuesday.
Yuma is the first border cityin the United States to declare a state of emergency as a response to the surge in the number of migrant families seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, the Arizona Republic reported.
The Republican mayor's declaration comes on the heels of a similar move by President Trump, who declared a national emergency back in February in order to access billions of dollars that Congress refused to give him to build a wall on the border with Mexico.
(Read more: The answer to America's border crisis)
Though both chambers of Congress attempted to stymie Trump’s efforts, ultimately the House failed to muster the two-thirds majority needed to overrule the president's veto on a congressional resolution blocking the national emergency declaration.
Nicholls said that he’s hoping for a “FEMA-type response” to help his southwest Arizona city manage the migrant influx.
“FEMA shows up at disasters all the time. This isn’t a natural disaster, but it is a disaster either way,” he said. “Their resources could come in and take care of the situation and would effectively handled that.”
Nicholls told CNN that he doesn’t believe migrants are a danger to the community, but rather hopes the declaration will get more resources to help Yuma cope.
"Every person that has been released to us has had a background check and has a health check. They are not just adult males, they would be in family units," Nicholls said. "We are not anticipating large-scale crime issues. We are not anticipating situations that would make Yuma a dangerous place."
He said the city’s migrant shelter is running short of space, and the nonprofit groups that have stepped up to fill in the gaps are low on resources.
“The nonprofits have done a great job of continuing to move migrants to their final destinations, which is not Yuma. They’re looking to move on to other destinations. However, the transportation network is just insufficient in order to keep up with the demand,” he said. “And the backlog of people staying at the shelter has created this capacity issue.”
Border Patrol has released more than 11,000 migrant family members at nongovernmental shelters or bus stations along the border since March 19, when the number of apprehensions hit a record high and “as a last resort” the agency began releasing non-criminal families directly from custody with notices to appear in court.4 comments on this story
Nicholls said he’s hoping other border communities will make similar declarations to put pressure on the federal government to provide additional resources.
“It is with a heavy heart that I declare that we’re at this point,” he said. “But it’s something I believe we need to do to make sure our community is maintained and that the human rights of all the migrants are also maintained, and that we have a path forward that respects both.”
The number of migrants apprehended at the border in March totaled more than 103,000 — the highest number in more than a decade.