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Yuma declares state of emergency over migrant families

Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls on Tuesday declared a symbolic “state of emergency” to deal with the number of families being released from Border Patrol custody into the city.

Nicholls said Tuesday that he hoped not to get to this point but that organizations helping immigrant families just don’t have capacity to deal with so many. He called on the federal government to send resources, suggesting a FEMA response. The state of emergency doesn’t actually allocate any funds but calls on the federal government to help.

“This isn’t a natural disaster but it is a disaster either way,” said Nicholls, a Republican. “Their resources could come in and effectively handle that.”

Border cities have seen a large number of immigrant families from Central America being dropped off by immigration authorities who don’t have the resources to process them. Immigration authorities saw about 100,000 people come through the border in March and say they’re on pace to arrest a million by the end of the year.

In the Yuma area, Border Patrol officials have seen a staggering number of immigrant families who show up at the border and turn themselves in. Most are from Guatemala, and many are seeking asylum.

The city helped coordinate that opening of an emergency shelter that can hold 150 people. On Tuesday, there were 200 immigrants at the shelter and more were expected, Nicholls said. Nicholls said he feared some immigrants would wind up on the street if there wasn’t enough room for them at the shelter.

Patrick Ptak, spokesman for Gov. Doug Ducey, said the office will review the declaration once it is received.

“Ultimately, this humanitarian crisis is the result of Congress’ failure to act. It will only be solved by Congress actually doing something, and the governor has vocally urged Congress to quit playing politics and take action,” Ptak said.

Ptak said the governor is working with local governments, non-profits groups and federal officials to “maximize available resources.”

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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