Yuma mayor proclaims local emergency as migrant release continues

Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls on Tuesday declared a local emergency due to the overwhelming release of migrants into the community.

Nicholls issued the emergency following the United States Border Patrol’s release of nearly 1,300 migrant family members into the city’s shelter system over the last three weeks.

“It is with a heavy heart that I declare that we’re at this point, but it’s something that I believe we need to do to make sure that 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,” Nicholls said at a press conference.

On Tuesday morning, Yuma’s local shelter was at its maximum capacity of 200 and, according to Nicholls, Border Patrol planned to release 120 more migrants over the course of the day.

“Migrants continue to be released at a rate that cannot be sustained, overwhelming the current non-profit shelter system,” Nicholls said urging the federal government to provide assistance.

According to Nicholls, Yuma cannot sustain the current humanitarian crisis. He said signing the proclamation was an attempt to “avert hundreds of asylum-seeking migrants from being left without resources.”

Yuma’s state of emergency comes three weeks after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released a letter describing the current situation as “dire.”

“We are witnessing historic migration flows that far exceed U.S. capacity and a humanitarian situation that grows worse by the day,” former Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen M. Nielsen wrote. “Our facilities are maxed out, our agents and officers are stretched thin. We have come to the point of a system-wide breakdown.”

Two weeks ago, the Trump administration decided to relocate officers from ports of entry to help with the crisis after seeing its highest total number of daily apprehensions and encounters in over a decade twice in one week.

The increase of migrants is also straining local nonprofits that are trying to transport migrants to their final destinations within the U.S.

“The City of Yuma has asked for the Salvation Army’s help in providing food and shelter to people in need who have permission to travel in the United States and are awaiting transport to their final host destinations,” the Yuma Salvation Army said. “The Yuma Community Food Bank and Immaculate Conception Catholic Church are among the other community organizations that have banded together in The Yuma Humanitarian Project, and we are grateful for their support.”

Nicholls applauded the work of his community’s nonprofit aid agencies.

“The nonprofits have done a great job of trying to move the migrants on to their final destination, which is not Yuma. They’re not looking to reside in Yuma, they’re looking to move on to other destinations,” Nicholls said. “However, the transportation network is just insufficient in order to keep up with the demand and the backlog of people staying at the shelter has created this capacity issue.”

For or anyone interested in volunteering or donating to help with the crisis, click here.

Emily Richardson

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