Some Arizona officials expecting increase in migrants as Title 42 coming to an end

Some people are worried about a possible increase of asylum seekers to Arizona, but one Valley organization says their facilities won't be flooded.
Published: Dec. 13, 2022 at 10:41 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Unless a federal appeals court steps in, a Trump-era policy on asylum seekers will expire. Title 42 was implemented during the pandemic as a way to quickly reject people seeking asylum to limit the spread of COVID-19. But now, some worry that lifting this policy will create an influx of asylum seekers that Arizona isn’t ready to handle.

“There’s never enough resources,” said Connie Phillips, Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest President and CEO. “The numbers of people that are coming and requesting asylum has grown.”

Phillips says her organization worked with 14,000 asylum seekers this past year alone. Still, she’s not expecting the end of Title 42 to overwhelm Arizona facilities. “Having it repealed doesn’t mean that the gates open and everybody comes flooding in,” she said. “Because people still have to go through a process.”

President Biden tried to end the Trump-era border policy of expelling asylum seekers earlier this year. Last month, a district court judge agreed with him and ordered the government to stop using the policy by December 21. But earlier this week, Arizona joined other states in asking a federal appeals court to delay terminating Title 42. It’s a move supported by state politicians like state senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema.

“When I believe they are making decisions that are not in the best interest of Arizona, I’ll call them out on it,” Kelly said. “Issues like the border, lifting Title 42 without a plan in place.” “We’re already facing a very severe crisis on the border in Arizona,” Sinema added.

That’s where Santa Cruz County Sheriff David Hathaway is located. But for him, the real crisis is the confusion created by Title 42 continuing to be enforced. “It’s long past time to go back to normal immigration processing,” Hathaway said. “I have empathy for the federal officials who don’t have clear guidance on how to proceed. Thankfully, nobody knows if we still have work visas, do we still have student visas, do we still have tourist visas. Because it’s all been put on hold.”

Whenever Title 42 is no longer enforced, Hathaway and Phillips expect there to be an increase in asylum seekers. But both say that’s a good thing. “It doesn’t just increase the border communities,” Hathaway said. “These people go up to Tucson, Phoenix to patronize the hospitality industry.” “These are not people who are drug dealers or terrorists,” Phillips added. “These are people that have escaped situations in their home country, and they’re simply seeking the same thing people in our country wants. And that’s safety.”

A federal appeals court should rule on delaying the end of Title 42 later this week.