Tucson Asks Community For Help With Migrants

Published: Friday, May 3, 2019 - 1:21pm

The city of Tucson spent $20,000 of taxpayer money to shelter asylum seekers dropped off by federal immigration agents over a weekend in mid-April. Now the city is asking the community to step in as a large monastery housing migrants will be converted to other uses this summer.

The city's agreement with the owner of the Benedictine Monastery in central Tucson ends in July. It's been a temporary home to about 7,000 asylum seekers who surrendered to Customs and Border Protection then were released for court dates throughout the country.

Rev. Bart Smith encouraged residents to step in and help.

"This is who Tucson is," he said. "We are not a community who builds walls, we are not a community that strings up razor wire. We are a community that lays out the welcome mat.  Because that is who we are and that is who we will be. So I invite you to join me in this work."

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild criticized Customs and Border Protection for not coordinating  with locals.

"They’ve been dropping off at the bus station. The monastery’s a mile from the bus station. Drop off at the bus station. That saves incredible effort in time and logistics."

Rothschild said the state told him to save receipts though it’s not clear when Tucson will be reimbursed. The city and Pima County are considering whether Operation Stonegarden funding can be used to supply local government with help. The grant is for local law enforcement to work migrant smuggling and drug interdiction enforcement along the border. City councilman Steve Kozachik said Border Patrol officials were unfamiliar with whether Stonegarden funding could be used for humanitarian aid.

President Donald Trump threatened to release migrants into so-called "sanctuary cities". But his administration has been straining the coffers of cities along the border with no such policy in place. San Diego sued the Trump Administration last April over drop offs on its streets. Republican-controlled Yuma, Ariz., declared a local emergency over dropoffs there weeks later. California provided state funding for Riverside County after drop offs started in Blythe last month.

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