TUCSON (KVOA) – The Biden administration is moving to allow more asylum seekers into the states as they await their immigration hearings. Arizona senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema expressed concern as to how this will affect COVID-19 in Arizona.
In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Senators Kelly and Sinema asked DHS to make sure they have sufficient resources to keep Arizonans and migrants safe from COVID-19 as more migrants enter the states.
They say in the letter:
“Our nation must improve the asylum process and allow eligible migrants to make asylum claims. However, we must also consider the need for an effective COVID-19 response. Releasing migrants without COVID-19 testing will directly affect Arizona communities.”
According to Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry, there has been no contact or development of an emergency shelter plan by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) or the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Huckleberry said in a memo:
“In the past, this has led to a local crisis when processing these asylum seekers for emergency shelter and transportation services. This is a pending problem and it appears the Department of Homeland Security is ill-prepared to handle the issue.”
The Pima County Health Department has already been planning for this issue and says they’ve been working with Catholic Community Services, which operates Casa Alitas, to make sure they’re ready.
“They are prepared because we’ve helped them become prepared to test all the folks who are coming into that facility,” said PCHD Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia.
Casa Alitas has not stopped taking in asylum seekers throughout the pandemic. They have confirmed they they have the ability to test people for COVID-19 and the facilities to isolate them if necessary.