More asylum seekers head to Casa Alitas under Biden administration, decline of COVID-19

More asylum seekers head to Casa Alitas under Biden administration, decline of COVID-19

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - As the Biden administration eases immigration policies and COVID-19 cases decline, Casa Alitas is seeing more people seeking asylum and asking for their help, at least around two-dozen Friday.

Mario Trejo has volunteered at Casa Alitas for a while, but COVID-19 and a slower flow of people needing their help made him pause. With his second vaccine under his belt, and more people seeking asylum under the Biden administration, he’s back to volunteering. Packing backpacks with masks, clothes and every-day essentials for asylum seekers.

“There’s a lot more people, a lot more need again. It was quiet for a while,” he said.

Casa Alitas said they need his help, and others, as they estimate 20 to 50 people a day are now coming to their shelter. That seems like a small number compared to the hundreds they have seen in the past, but it’s an increase after the Trump era immigration policies and COVID.

“Our numbers have certainly gone up day-to-day,” said Diego Lopez, program manager at Casa Alitas.

Though, there is still an expected surge on the horizon. A limit of under 70 people at the shelter due to COVID-19 could cause problems, warns Tucson city councilman, Steve Kozachik. He is asking for federal national funding help.

“The reality is though that because of COVID, in the last year, that the conditions have fundamentally changed,” said Kozachik. “We’re on the cusp of seeing these numbers fundamentally escalate. We need money for capacity, we need money for COVID testing, we need money for food, we need money to help provide lodging for these people.”

Tucson Mayor, Regina Romero, sent a letter to the Department of Homeland security Feb. 26. In the letter, she asked DHS for federal assistance to provide food, shelter and medical care for people released from DHS. Mayer Romero estimated 160 asylum seekers a day would cost about 105-thousand dollars just for the City of Tucson alone.

In the height of the 2019 surge, our area saw closer to 350 asylum seekers a day.

Casa Alitas said they’re working with partners to be prepared when even more people seek their help. However, the influx they are currently seeing, they said, is not entirely attributed to the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) being rolled back.

“We are seeing some changes and movement in other portions of the policies that are allowing people to come through,” said Lopez.

Casa Alitas said they’re working with partners to be prepared when even more people seek their help. However, the influx they are currently seeing, they said, is not entirely attributed to the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) being rolled back.

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