Yuma mayor talks about preparing for migrants massing at border

May 4, 2023, 7:00 PM | Updated: Jun 22, 2023, 4:50 pm

us-mexico border in arizona, which rep john curtis just visited...

FILE: Immigrants, some carrying small children, walk to cross through a gap in the U.S.-Mexico border barrier before being processed by the U.S. Border Patrol on May 20, 2022 in Yuma, Arizona. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — The mayor of Yuma, Arizona, along the southern border, is bracing for a surge of migrants moving north, set in motion by the end of a pandemic-era law.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Title 42 has allowed the U.S. to expel migrants more than 2.7 million times from the southern border, according to official government figures.

Title 42 expires May 11. President Joe Biden plans to send 1,500 troops to the US-Mexico border. These troops will help Border Patrol agents manage the expected surge of migrants waiting in Mexico. Additionally, they will help with the rapid dissemination of information by smugglers about U.S. policy changes, according to CBS News.

Massing on the border

Doug Nicholls, the Republican mayor of Yuma, Arizona,  joins Dave Noriega and guest co-host Maura Carabello to discuss what he anticipates coming to his town when Title 42 sunsets.

“Can you paint a picture for us of what normal migration in Yuma looks like?” Dave asked.

“Normal migration would be probably 10 to 20 apprehensions a day [with] everything being completely processed within the DHS [Department of Homeland Security] system, which means Border Patrol released to ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], which then goes through the Department of Justice. That’s a normal process. We haven’t seen the normal process for over two years,” Nichols said.

He added today that 600 people a day are being processed in Yuma. About 150 to 200 people are released to a nonprofit organization, which helps arrange transportation for migrants to reach their destination.

“How long are they staying in the community? Are they moving into the United States quickly or do they stay in the area?” Carabello asked.

“It’s fairly quick. Usually, within hours, they’re on the road to a regional airport,” Nicholls said. “On the rare occasion, they might have to spend the night, which is usually a hotel room provided by the nonprofit.”

According to Nicholls, Yuma has nothing that would be described as a shelter.

Yuma mayor can see what’s coming

“How large — what kind of influx are you expecting?” Dave asked.

“The numbers we’re hearing are there’s over 600,000 people waiting just south of the border for Title 42 to sunset. And, then they’ll start moving north and that’s all across the southern border.”

“And then the Darién Gap, which is in Panama. The estimates there — where a lot of the migrants move through — the activity there is up 550%. So those numbers could push us up even into the 4,000 to 6,000 people a day range,” Nicholls said.

“Do you have any sense of how many countries people are coming from?” Cabello asked.

“It fluctuates depending upon the timeframe, but it’s over 100, like 112 through the Yuma sector, the last time I checked,” Nicholls said. “It’s India, Russia, Ukraine, China — it’s from all over the world. It’s not just those that are immediately adjacent to the United States.”

Trump vs. Biden at the border

“You were first elected in 2014. Just from your perspective, how does it feel different? What has happened? And how is your relationship with the federal government changed?” Carabello asked.

“In 2019, President Trump was in office. We had this large influx; I declared an emergency, then he had me at the White House. We were talking solutions, and within three months, the situation had calmed down.

“When President Biden got in office, he rescinded almost every immigration policy that President Trump had put in place except for Title 42 because it was a healthcare-based emergency.

“So we’re kind of more left to fend for ourselves. It’s very clear when you talk to the administration. . . . As soon as they’re done doing the exact letter of the law, they believe that mass of people is now the local government’s responsibility,” Nicholls said.


Listen to Dave & Dujanovic on weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL NewsRadio. Find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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Yuma mayor talks about preparing for migrants massing at border