Pima County prepares for the end of the immigration policy Title 42

Published: Apr. 7, 2023 at 9:36 PM MST|Updated: Apr. 7, 2023 at 9:37 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - With the end of the declared COVID-19 health emergency also comes the end of the controversial immigration policy Title 42.

The policy was implemented during the Trump Administration, which allows asylum seekers to be denied into the US due to health concerns over COVID-19 and is now set to end on May 11.

Thousands of asylum seekers have amassed on the Mexican side of the border awaiting their chance to make their case, but when Title 42 is lifted, agents will not be able to use it to deny entry.

“We only know we have so many resources, we only have so many beds,” said Pima County Communications Director Mark Evans.

Evans and county officials know those beds will fill up fast and likely overflow when Title 42 is no longer enforced.

The last time there was a surge in Pima County was last December when as many as 500 asylum seekers passed through Tucson for some days. Now Customs and Border Patrol, according to the county, is estimating that could surge to as high as 1,700 a day.

“That’s triple what we were getting in December when we were almost completely overwhelmed,” Evans said.

Pima County is hoping it doesn’t face the same issues El Paso did at the end of last year when it was overwhelmed and lost control with people released into the streets, airport and bus terminals packed with people trying to leave.

“This is a humanitarian issue,” Evans said. “It’s a matter of public health, it’s a matter of public safety, it’s a matter of basic human decency but it comes at a cost.”

Pima County runs out of federal funding at the end of May. It’s applying for grants which are not guaranteed right now. Even though both the Arizona Governor and DHS Secretary Alejandro Majorkas have been to Tucson in recent weeks, there are still no assurances the money will be granted.

“The governor is well aware of it, certainly Secretary Majorkas is well aware of it,” he said. “It’s what’s everybody going to do about it?’ and the other issue is the funding for it.”

Others are wondering what will happen when tens of thousands of asylum seekers cross the border seeking their day in court. They will find they will need to get in line and that line is two million cases behind.

“I have cases where people filed for asylum affirmatively seven-eight years ago,” said Mo Goldman, a Tucson immigration lawyer. “And they still haven’t had an asylum interview.”

A broken system is adding fuel to a fire which will likely get more intense when the health emergency is lifted.

“The entire policy is going to have to come to an end,” Goldman said. “And preparation for that should have been put in motion well in advance of it.”