DOUGLAS, AZ — Governor Ducey led a roundtable among Republican politicians and a helicopter tour of the Arizona-Mexico border in Douglas Friday.
Ducey called the current situation at the Southwest border a “man-made crisis caused by elites in Washington, D.C. who are totally divorced from the reality on the ground.”
This event happened just days after Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued a statement about what he called a “difficult” situation at the Southwest border and how the number of migrants crossing is expected to reach the highest levels in 20 years.
ABC15 reached out to members of the community and spent two days in Douglas to get to know more about this border town that locals described as “safe but struggling economically due to border closures.”
Douglas Mayor Donald. C. Huish was also present at this event; however, Governor Ducey did not address the worrying situation from a trade standpoint that the city of Douglas is currently facing.
It’s been a year since border closures started due to the pandemic.
“We’re extremely worried, we estimate two-thirds of our sales come from south of the border,” said Huish.
Other Douglas longtime residents questioned the real motive behind the governor’s visit.
Richard Elzy Jr, a Douglas rancher, says he has only seen governors visit when it’s politically convenient.
“It’s just everyone is trying to score political points. It’s the hot topic right now, is the unaccompanied children coming over. They’re only here when the media is here,” said Elzy.
Governor Ducey blamed the current Biden administration for the “crisis” at the border. Florida Senator Rick Scott supported those claims, giving a message in both Spanish and English.
“You have to be furious as an American citizen to watch what Joe Biden has done,” said Scott who admitted to ABC15 he had only spent hours at the Arizona border.
Meanwhile, Elzy says a lot has changed when it comes to immigration in Douglas, even as families are divided in the issue.
Elzy says undocumented immigrants meant cheap labor and, in some way, they helped build what Douglas is today.
“There’s a lot of hypocrisy by a lot of the farmers out here. They all hired undocumented migrants through the 80s, through the 90s and now they won’t admit that because it is not politically expedient for them to be able to admit that,” said Elzy.
Douglas is a town with a large Mexican American population and families with strong ties to Sonora. However, not everyone thinks like Elzy.
“I'm all about immigration but do it the right way. My parents were both Mexican nationals," J.C. Flores said.
Flores has dual citizenship. He was born in Douglas but raised in both Arizona and Agua Prieta, Sonora.
“I'm not worried about the mom and the two babies, I'll give them water, whatever I can do to help. I feel bad for them, they're looking for a better life. It's the people that we’re not catching.”
Flores says since President Biden took office, there’s been open borders, a message that Governor Ducey also gave on Friday.
“We need more commitment from Washington to address these needs. There's a perception that our borders are open,” said Ducey.
But the border is not open, the U.S. continues expelling asylum seekers under Title 42, a policy implemented during the Trump administration. The only difference now is unaccompanied children are not being expelled from the country.
ABC15 spoke to a family who traveled from Honduras hoping to seek asylum at the Arizona border.
“They told me they couldn’t help me right now and they sent me back,” said Yaneth, who asked to protect her identity since she’s fleeing domestic violence.
Yaneth says she is pregnant and decided to leave Honduras with her two children to reunite with relatives in Oklahoma. She says her husband has threatened to kill her and is afraid of going back to her home country.
But her claims weren’t enough to be admitted into the country as an asylum seeker. She says she was apprehended along with her two children by Border Patrol in the Tucson sector this week. She says she never expected to be expelled, as she traveled for 10 days from Honduras because she heard the U.S. had open borders. Now she’s advising others to not come.
“Don’t leave your country, stay there because things are complicated here, there’s no help.”
Yaneth is now waiting in Nogales to try crossing to the U.S. again, despite her desperation, she says she would never consider sending her two children alone through the desert.
And just like those that have come before Yaneth under President Obama, Trump and now Biden, more will continue to come.
Elzy says that’s because the root of the problem is poverty and violence in other countries.
“If you really want to get the job done, then you address what really is going to get the job done. First of all, we have to fix the immigration system, we have to have an immigration system that brings organization to the chaos that is our immigration system today,” said Elzy.
But other Douglas residents feel it all changed when President Biden took office.
“I’m not saying it didn’t happen under Trump or all the other presidents, but you see the difference now. For them to say that is not a crisis, obviously there’s something going on,” expressed Flores.
During Friday’s press conference, Governor Ducey invited ABC15 to tour the border with him.
“We’re going to have someone take you for a little tour, we’re going to have someone take you for a drive and they’re going to show you that the border is wide open,” Ducey said.
ABC15 will follow up on that invitation.