Tucson prepares for 1,200 migrants and asylum seekers a day when Title 42 is lifted

KOLD News 5-5:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Dec. 22, 2022 at 5:48 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Title 42, A Trump-era health policy was set to be lifted Wednesday and all eyes are on the Supreme Court for their decision.

Right now, many across our community are preparing for the influx of migrants if Title 42 is lifted. Organizations like Casa Alitas are already bursting at the seams, but have been making preparations for if and when Title 42 is lifted.

Casa Alitas has been preparing for the end of Title 42 for nearly two years. Right now they’re taking in over 600 people per day, but if Title 42 is lifted they could see double and the biggest concern is having enough space.

“Originally we were told to anticipate possibly 800 a day, well, we’ve seen 800 a day happen even before the lifting of Title 42, so the goalposts keep moving,” explained Teresa Cavendish, executive director of Casa Alitas.

As thousands wait in Mexico to enter the country, Casa Alitas has been working with the county to acquire more space and they’ve tuned up their system to provide services for those who are processed by border patrol and entering legally.

Despite efforts being made to create space, like the county and city making moves to rent hotel spaces and lease a 65,000 square foot space to help with the overflow, there is still a concern about street releases.

″I think it will be a concern for all of us,” Cavendish said. “We have not identified a truly adequate amount of shelter for folks if we have 1,200 people a day coming in for days on end.”

They provide COVID testing, food, clothing, showers, shelter, and a way to contact family, but the predicted influx will have a significant impact on how they do their work.

Over at Ward 6, they’re collecting donations like food, hygiene products, and blankets for Casa Alitas, but Councilman Steve Kozachik says there is a bigger issue at hand as many wait for a decision on Title 42.

“We are artificially holding down the numbers of people at the border,” Kozachik said. “It’s not good for them. They’re being kept on the other side of the border. They’re being kept in inhumane and unsanitary conditions. We need to force congress and the administration to finally fix the broken asylum process.”

It’s a problem he says has been in existence for at least a decade. Title 42 was never meant to be permanent and many are frustrated and confused about it still being enforced.

″Title 42 is not an immigration policy. It’s a COVID policy. It’s a health policy,” he explained. “It’s being used falsely to try and control numbers. That’s not the long-term answer. The answer is to rip the band aid off and fix the problem.”

If the shelter space does get too packed here, there is a chance that people could be transferred to Phoenix.

But, the concern is that if Title 42 is lifted, there won’t be any point to lateral transfers because everyone will be dealing with the impact.

This is a developing story, be sure to stay with us on air and online.