PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey says he wants answers from the federal government on how the decision to again process asylum seekers will affect Arizona.
In a letter to Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary of Homeland Security, Ducey complained that the agency has not consulted with local law enforcement and health officials about what he called the Biden administration’s “hasty announcement” to repeal the Migrant Protection Protocols instituted by former President Donald Trump. Those had all but locked down the asylum program, forcing those seeking admission to wait in Mexico.
Now the Biden administration is expected to restart the program as early as Friday, though the White House says no one is being admitted just yet.
Ducey said the problem is no one has apparently bothered to check with the people in Arizona who will have to deal with the influx.
Asylum applications were being processed for years before Trump changed the policy, gubernatorial press aide C.J. Karamargin acknowledged. And he said Ducey has never been among those who have advocated for sealing the border with Mexico.
But what the Biden administration announced is not simply a return to the way things were before, Karamargin said.
“One of the big differences between now and then is COVID-19,” he said. That has resulted in lots of questions from those on the ground, he said.
“So we are conveying the questions that we’ve received to DHS,” Karamargin said Wednesday.
Ducey was very specific in his letter to Mayorkas about what he wants to know.
“How will individuals be monitored for health concerns and protected from COVID-19?” the Republican governor asked.
He also wants to know whether the administration has plans to keep migrants distanced from one another while awaiting testing results.
Ducey wants a commitment from the federal government to quarantine all migrants who test positive for the virus so they are not released while contagious.
There was no immediate response late Wednesday to inquiries to Homeland Security about the governor’s letter.
In a news release Tuesday, the White House announced it will begin to process eligible individuals to have their claims of asylum heard in the United States. There will be a “virtual registration process” accessible from any location.
“Once registered, eligible individuals will be provided additional information about where and when to present themselves,” the statement said, telling people to not approach the border until advised.
Administration officials said they will begin by processing about 25,000 migrants now in Mexico with active claims. That requires not just registration but being tested for COVID-19 before coming to a U.S. port of entry.
The administration has suggested it will handle the processing at three border entry points. There has been no announcement whether that will include any of the crossings in Arizona.
Not everything the governor is asking about is related to COVID.