/ Modified apr 26, 2023 5:07 p.m.

Sinema, Southern Arizona mayors and county officials discuss impact of immigration on border communities.

The U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee comes weeks before Title 42 expires.

360 san luis asylum seekers A woman and child embrace along the border in San Luis Río Colorado, Sonora where migrants seeking asylum formed an encampment along the sidewalk as they waited to make formal requests with U.S. Customs officers at the San Luis Port of Entry in December 2018.
Robert Lindberg/AZPM Staff

Southern Arizona mayors and county officials testified in front of the U.S. Senate's Homeland Security Committee about the impact of border immigration on Arizona border communities on Wednesday, April 26

The hearing comes weeks before Title 42 expires on May 11, which has given the U.S. Border Patrol the power to turn asylum seekers away since 2020.

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the number of migrant encounters rose by 27 percent. Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma said that CBP has encountered more than five million migrants and more than 35,000 pounds of fentanyl at the southern border since January 2021.

Chair of the Senate Border Management Subcommittee, Senator Kyrsten Sinema said that the numbers are unsustainable and will further increase at the end of Title 42.

Lankford said that the Department of Homeland Security projects an uptick in migrants anywhere between 11,000 and 13,000 per day.

Deputy County Administrator and Chief Medical Officer in Pima County, Francisco Garcia says that on average the amount of asylum seekers who receive assistance within the county are able to leave the county between 24 and 36 hours.

“This December, county, and community assistance was stressed to the breaking point of 15,000 releases that month. Federal agencies expect twice that number after May 11,” Garcia said. “If that happens, we will be overwhelmed and there will be hundreds of people left to fend for themselves on the streets of Pima County.”

“In Southern Arizona, law enforcement has seen a troubling new trend. Cartels using social media platforms to recruit and exploit American teens,” Sinema said. “Some as young as 14.”

Cartels offer promises of easy money in return for driving migrants and contraband across the border. Reports have shown teens engaging in high-speed chases with law enforcement.

“Sierra Vista does lie in the path of these low car drivers who need to travel through our community to proceed north,” said Mayor of the City of Sierra Vista Clea McCaa II.

Earlier this year, Sinema introduced The Combating Cartels Social Media Act in hopes of combating illicit recruitment activity by establishing a national strategy with the help of government agencies and private sectors.

Lankford, who is a co-sponsor of the bill, said that in the first six months of this fiscal year, CBP has seized nearly the same amount of fentanyl it did during the entire fiscal year of 2022, and over 350,000 pounds of methamphetamine since 2021.

“That is the primary killer in my state,” Lankford said. “Every state is a border state now with the movement of illegal drugs.”

Mayor of the City of Yuma Douglas Nicholls said that the city has been affected by the immigration crisis affecting international economic investment.

“President Biden could declare a state of emergency and send the message of no more trafficking, FEMA should take over the migrant sheltering and utilizing their capabilities and resources,” Nicholls said.

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