Where migrants go when shelters are full

Published: May. 10, 2023 at 5:56 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Final preparations are underway for the lifting of Title 42 restrictions at the border on Thursday, May 11.

Non-profits in southern Arizona are already at capacity and are expecting even more asylum seekers to arrive in the coming days and weeks.

But what happens when shelters no longer have any room?

According to Mark Evans with Pima County, the county and the City of Tucson are working with several hotels around the city to provide shelter.

The Red Roof Inn near the airport is one of those hotels. Evans said migrants who test positive for infectious diseases like COVID stay here until they get the all-clear to move on.

“Over the last winter, we saw not just Covid but there were instances of RSV, Chicken Pox, and the Flu,” Evans said. “We don’t want people traveling while they are infectious without having to receive treatment.”

Evans said having these hotels available are vital to help prevent a humanitarian crisis in Tucson.

“We had 15,000 in December that was roughly 500 a day,” Evans tells 13 News. “That is 500 a day, buses pulling up being dropped off with nowhere to go.”

Evans said the hotels have helped avoid street releases. He said both the county and city have contracts with locations around the city to rent rooms on an “as-needed basis.”

However, many of the hotels are kept a secret to keep asylum seekers and the community safe.

“Our main concern is for the safety of the asylum seekers as well as the safety of the community,” Evans said. “Not surprisingly to anyone, border immigration is a very hot-button topic.”

Evans said it’s important to note these asylum seekers are here legally.

He tells 13 News most of the migrants are staying in Tucson for 48 hours before moving to other parts of the country where they have families or sponsors.

“It would be inhumane to have thousands of people on the streets of Tucson, especially in the summer with no place to stay, no food, no water, left to fend for themselves,” Evans said. “That is not the community that Pima County and Tucson are.”

Title 42 is officially set to end Thursday, May 11 at 9:00 P.M. Tucson time.

Officials believe at that time, thousands more migrants could be seeking refuge here in the United States.

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