YUMA, AZ — Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has declared a state of emergency and the deployment of as many as 250 guardsmen to the Yuma-Mexico border.
Sending troops to the border is something that’s happened before, under presidents George W. Bush, Obama, and Trump.
The difference now is the bill comes at the expense of the state taxpayers, $25 million to start, according to the governor’s announcement.
Gov. Ducey and Arizona's senators both are pushing the Biden administration to reimburse the state. The governor held a press conference Wednesday to make the announcement as well as a round table with legislative and community leaders in Yuma, but not all community leaders were invited.
“It’s been going on for the four years, normally if the governor shows up or any other Republican shows up that wants to go to the border we don’t get invited,” said Martin Porchas a Democratic Yuma County supervisor for District 1.
Wednesday’s round table was held in the same building Porchas has been working at since 2007. Porchas was inside, he says just steps away, locked out of a discussion that he calls the most important his hometown has seen in years.
In Wednesday’s press conference in Yuma, the governor said in part, “This affects all of the counties and not just in Arizona, not just Maricopa County, but across our country.”
So why were most of Yuma County’s voices ignored today?
Yuma has five county supervisors, three are Democrats and none of them were invited.
Some county supervisors question if Gov. Ducey’s visit is mainly a political move.
“If they really think it is an issue or a crisis, my take would be that you want everybody sitting at that table that can work together or help. I don't think they think like that, it then may not really be an issue and might be more of a political thing,” stated Porchas.
The city of Yuma is not on the border, but their Republican Mayor Douglas Nicholls was invited. To give you some perspective, San Luis and Somerton are closer to the border. San Luis Mayor Gerardo Sánchez, a Democrat who’s been very outspoken about border issues was invited.
“People would say that there’s no humanitarian crisis, that there’s no issues at the border, the city of San Luis has been in survival mode, I call it, for the last four years,” stated Sanchez.
The mayor for Somerton, Gerardo Anaya, who thinks the opposite, wasn’t invited.
Politics aside, someone who’s also asking why they weren’t invited is the non-profit that’s been assisting border patrol since February.
“It would have helped to give him another perspective, to listen to all of us and not just bring the same people he usually talks to. To add some diversity,” said Emma Torres, the executive director of Campesinos sin Fronteras.
Campesinos sin Fronteras has been housing asylum seekers and helping them with transportation to shelters. Torres says they don’t know if there are less people crossing in April than March, but they went from helping 60 migrants daily to 30 this month.
The big factor she says is that now there’s more help.
“There’s been a lot of help from the Federal Government, there’s a new facility border patrol opened, then there’s those contracts to house asylum seekers in hotels also FEMA has been helping us,” said Torres.
The border patrol Yuma sector just opened a 90,000 square foot facility to process migrants including unaccompanied children.
Torres and Porchas say resources are here, so they wonder if the national guard would make any difference.
“I hope they come and assist in other ways because they’re not apprehending. If they’re coming to help at a shelter or to process the paperwork that’s good, but if they’re just going to be there standing at the border, the border patrol is doing a really good job,” stated Porchas.
Customs and Border Protection’s data shows the number of migrants crossing usually drops after March.
“If you look at the seasonal data going back several years, you can see there’s a typical pattern in which the numbers do start to fall off in most years from March to April,” stated Garrett Archer, ABC15’s data analyst.
Garrett says the pattern usually continues to the rest of the summer. “We should see a drop off on the numbers from March to April, but again it is difficult to know what it would look like since these numbers in March were so high. We don't know if there will be a major drop in numbers or if it’s going to be a small step down.”
Governor Ducey said for now the National Guard will concentrate here in Yuma County, but sources inside the border patrol say the help is needed in the Tucson sector where there’s been reportedly 50,000 people who got away.
The American Immigration Council, an organization that advocates on behalf of immigrants says the largest increase has been in the Tucson sector as well.