Federal judge deals blow to Biden Administration border plan

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: May. 20, 2022 at 7:12 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A federal judge in Louisiana has dealt a blow to the Biden Administration’s plans to rescind Title 42, a health policy implemented by the Trump Administration which allows for immediate deportation of asylum seekers.

It was put in place in March 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic.

The CDC ruled in April that the policy was no longer needed so President Biden set May 23, as the day it would be lifted.

But 24 states, including Arizona, filed suit to keep it in place.

Judge Robert Summerhays granted an injunction prohibiting it from being rescinded.

For Pima County’s planners, the news came with mixed reactions.

“Absolutely, I would love to have the extra time,” said Shane Clark, the Director of the Department of Emergency Management.

Clark has been working with the county’s federal partners, the Border Patrol and Customs, on plans to deal with the expected surge once the policy is lifted.

Those plans have taken shape in the past few weeks but gaps remained.

“We have plans to initially kick off that surge and increase those operations as we find what that surge continues to look like and if it increases and for how long.” Clark said. “Those are not questions we have answers for right now.”

Clark has been trying to procure space for the asylum seekers whose numbers are expected to increase significantly.

Right now, Casa Alitas, run by Catholic Community Services, has been handling about 1,000 migrant and asylees per week. That could increase to several hundred a day.

The county will also need transportation services, health care services, especially COVID testing and quarantine sites, food services and housing for an unspecified number of people per day.

But Clark says he’s confident the county planning process can adapt quickly if necessary regardless of the federal situation.

“We’ve only been at the table a few weeks now, so there are challenges,” he said. “But we have plans in place.”

One concern is federal funding for the operations which is not in place as yet.

“We have made it very clear that this is a federal issue that should be brought with federal resources and federal funding so that we’re not encumbering our local citizens,” he said. “Whether Title 42 is ended or remains in place, Pima County will continue to work with our community partners, Southern Arizona border communities, and the federal government to ensure asylum seekers brought to Tucson by the Department of Homeland Security are provided shelter, food, and medical care, if needed, while transportation to the cities of their sponsors elsewhere in the country is arranged. In the meantime, County leaders will continue to encourage the federal government to find better solutions for the disposition of asylum seekers than releasing them in border communities which then have to marshal limited local resources to provide the asylees necessary aid. Until such a solution is in place, Pima County and its partner agencies will continue to treat people with legal standing to be in the United States with the dignity and respect they deserve.

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