While Customs and Border Protection officials build a tent-like facility for migrants, the city of Tucson is helping to house migrants by renting hotel rooms.
Tucson is contracting with local hotels to house individuals and families seeking asylum. In the past few weeks, the city has paid local hotels to temporarily shelter about 75 asylum seekers traveling as families, said a news release Monday from Mayor Regina Romero’s office.
“The City of Tucson will continue to be a strong partner — as we have been during previous surges under past presidential administrations — to provide humane, dignified care for asylum seekers during their brief stop in Tucson,” Romero, a Democrat, said in the written statement.
City officials said they did not have an estimate of the taxpayer cost for housing asylum seekers at hotels. They are asking the federal government to reimburse the costs.
The plight of migrant children at the border
Federal officials are dealing with tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border each month, including nearly 20,000 border encounters in the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector in March.
Officials are searching for ways to house asylum-seeking families and unaccompanied children. In general, families who are released by the Border Patrol stay in Tucson for a few days while they arrange transportation to other cities.
In Tucson, CBP officials are planning to build a tent-like facility on East Los Reales Road between Tucson International Airport and Interstate 10. The facility is scheduled to open in late April or early May.
The facility is designed to hold 500 people, but COVID-19 restrictions and other concerns likely will limit capacity to about 150 to 200 people, according to CBP officials. A similar facility built in Yuma in 2019 was air-conditioned and stocked with food and clothing.
“The City of Tucson has zero role in coordinating, planning, implementing, or any other aspect of this facility, which is being led by Border Patrol and who would have full details on the facility,” said the news release from Romero’s office.
Romero called for transparency, saying “it is important that this facility be open to both elected officials and members of the media, which is why I am encouraged to hear that Border Patrol plans to have an ‘open house’ of the facility prior to becoming operational.”
“While any ‘tent-like’ structure is a sub-optimal solution, it is imperative that any new facility is able to provide humane care with adequate COVID-19 precautions, especially for unaccompanied children who have already endured trauma that no child should have to experience,” Romero said in the statement.
“The crammed conditions that we have seen in other facilities in other states are simply not acceptable,” she said.