The mayor of an Arizona town has declared a state of emergency, claiming that Joe Biden’s administration sent him busloads of illegal immigrants while struggling to accommodate thousands of arrivals in a deepening border crisis.
Gila Bend, Arizona, is a town of less than 2,000 people, located halfway between the state capital of Phoenix and Sonoyta, a village on the Mexican side of the border. Mayor Chris Riggs told Fox News on Monday that for the past two weeks, Border Patrol agents have been dropping off busloads of illegal immigrants in Gila Bend, with no further instruction from the government on what to do with them.
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“Border Patrol let us know that they were going to be dropping migrants that had been detained for 72 hours in our town, which we really didn’t understand because we have nothing here,” Riggs told FOX Business. He said that he’s been left “completely in the dark” by the Biden administration on what to do with the new arrivals, and has not received any funding to shelter, house or feed the migrants.
Announcing that he would declare a state of emergency in the hope of getting some federal aid, Riggs told Fox that to test two busloads of migrants for Covid-19 every week for a year would cost his town $600,000. In addition to the influx by bus, he said that 20 or so migrants are arriving every day on foot, and violent crime has increased in Gila Bend as a result.
Riggs has appeared on TV multiple times in recent weeks to highlight the same problem. “Quite frankly, it’s going to cost us tens of thousands of dollars a year to be able just to provide them with a bottle of water and a sandwich when they get dropped off,” he told Fox last week. He then spoke to RT, and said dropping migrants off without health and background checks was akin to “opening Pandora’s box.”
Riggs is just the mayor of one small town, but his story illustrates a wider problem along the US’ 2,000-mile border with Mexico.
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Upon taking office, President Joe Biden immediately scrapped nearly all of Donald Trump’s tough border policies, including a rule requiring migrants to remain in Mexico until their asylum claims could be processed and a coronavirus-related regulation turning all migrants back at the border. In addition, Biden reinstated the Obama-era policy of ‘Catch and Release’, whereby apprehended migrants are set free into the US on the condition that they show up for a court hearing at a later date. With wait times of around two years, few do.
Conservatives claim that Biden’s about-face on Trump’s policies effectively invited tens of thousands of migrants to try their luck at the border, and some of the president’s own officials admit that his decisions may have released a “pent up” demand suppressed by Trump’s hardline policies.
The result is a staggering increase in illegal border crossings. Federal agents apprehended more than 100,000 border-crossers in February, the highest figure for that month since 2006. Crossings this year are on track to hit a two-decade high, and a record 15,500 unaccompanied minors are currently being held in Customs and Border Protection facilities, the same facilities vocally condemned by Biden during the Trump years.
Conservatives have slammed Biden for creating a “national disaster” and allowing “a mass incursion into the country by people who should not be here,” in the words of Trump, while some Democrats have pressed Biden to end the detention of migrants in deplorable conditions. Under pressure from both sides, bussing migrants to towns like Gila Bend is apparently a quick-fix solution to alleviate pressure at the border.
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Biden has not indicated that he plans to revive any Trump-era migration controls, but that hasn’t stopped him looking for other fixes. Instead of reinstating ‘Remain in Mexico’, he sent envoys to Mexico and Guatemala on Monday to ask their governments to staunch the flow of migrants. Two weeks earlier, he pleaded privately with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador for help.
Back in the US, other ‘fixes’ include an $86 million plan to house 1,200 migrant family members in hotels near the border, and a proposal to fly migrants to states near the Canadian border for processing.
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