Once known as a rugged, frontier town in the Wild West where only the toughest would tread, Yuma, Arizona, has become one of the nation’s most sought places to live. Settled along the Colorado River, the city provides spectacular views, wonderfully sunny weather year-round, and a populace known for being friendly and welcoming.
Mayor Douglas Nicholls has become concerned about his sometime-sleepy town of 100,000 residents returning to the lawless ways of the Wild West. As a result, Mayor Nicholls declared a state of emergency for the city on Thursday, paving the way to request resources and funding from the state and federal governments to assist with the situation.
The emergency is illegal migrants who have increased over 12-fold in just the past year. In the fiscal year 2020, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) made 8,800 arrests in the sector where Yuma resides. The fiscal year 2021, which ended September 30, 2021, saw CBP increase that total to 114,000. To start the new fiscal year of 2022, the month of October alone saw 21,623 arrests.
Many migrants flock to larger cities such as Yuma in an effort to locate transportation and begin their new lives. Most arrive all but penniless but still have to find a way to eat and travel. Those who make it to Yuma have, to that point, avoided detection by CBP and, therefore, are not eligible for government-provided transportation vouchers and other perks that those who arrive at ports of entry might receive.
This leaves hordes of migrants left to panhandling or trying other means to get the finances necessary just to live. Already in the country illegally, the migrants are often left to seedy methods of getting money: panhandling, theft, prostitution, drug sales, and the like. Trying to begin a new life, most find themselves caught in a struggle of becoming a scourge on society.
To add to those who avoid CBP detection, CBP often processes the migrants and releases them back into the public, many times with no requirements other than to voluntarily check-in at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility upon arrival at their final destination. The Biden Administration has released nearly 95,000 illegal migrants without assigning a date for immigration court review. An untold number is released with no court date assigned. Even when assigned a court date, the migrants rarely appear; when they do, their requests for asylum are often denied, but they are often released into public instead of being removed from the country.
In issuing the state of emergency declaration, Mayor Nicholls seemed to be aware of these facts and figures as he described the declaration as “due to the unprecedented numbers of migrants entering the city prior to being processed and released by Border Patrol.”
Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot echoed the mayor’s sentiments, calling law enforcement “overwhelmed” by the situation. One of the aspects leading to this overwhelming situation, according to Sheriff Wilmot, is the fact that many of the illegal migrants are discarding identification documents prior to crossing the border into the U.S. “They don’t want to be associated with those countries, because they know they’ll get sent back. So it’s all a false narrative. And they’re there. They’re playing the game.”
On Friday, the day after the declaration was issued, over 100 illegal border crossers were observed being picked up by CBP in Yuma. The group comprised of various nationalities, including Venezuelans, Colombians, Bangladeshis, Romanians, Russians, and men from India according to CBP records.
The situation in Yuma has not escaped notice in the state capital, either. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey visited Yuma this week to announce that he was deploying Arizona National Guard resources to Yuma to handle the surge.
Gov. Ducey has blamed the Biden Administration for the situation, stating, “The Biden border crisis is out of control and it’s getting worse by the day.” He blamed ending “sensible polices” such as the “Remain in Mexico” program.
Even though the Administration has been ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the Remain in Mexico program, no time frame was placed on the reimplementation, and the Administration has been dragging its feet in doing so.
Coinciding with Mayor Nicholls’ declaration, Gov. Ducey has ordered state officials, including Adjutant General Kerry Muehlenbeck, to come up with a plan to address the situation in Yuma as it is a top priority of his governance.