All eyes are on Yuma County after Governor Doug Ducey announced the Arizona National Guard would be deployed in response to a rising number of asylum seekers arriving at the border. But aid groups like the Arizona California Humanitarian Coalition say they're not being addressed.
The coalition formed in Yuma County in February, when U.S. Border Patrol agents began releasing migrants directly into rural areas like Somerton, a small farming community just south of Yuma.
Fernando Quiroz with the organization said asylum seekers now have access to COVID-19 testing, basic resources and transportation to larger cities like Tucson, where they can wait at a shelter and make travel plans to connect with family.
Quiroz said between 30 and 60 asylum seekers are released in Somerton most days of the week and that his coalition is managing those numbers well. After being released from detention, asylum seekers are given a rapid COVID test through a regional health clinic network and the coalition charters busses to take families to shelters in Tucson and Phoenix.
Last week, the advocacy group FWD.us announced a $150,000 grant for the coalition to continue that work. Funds could pay for food, clothing, first aid kits and other resources.
"The idea is to create an infrastructure, a coalition, not only with the local community leaders or NGOs, but also statewide, all border communities," Quiroz said.
But he said Arizona leadership hasn’t been in contact. Quiroz said his coalition hopes to be more a part of those plans going forward.
"We recently had our governor visit our community, and yet the major individuals, from county supervisors, to community leaders and agencies that are dealing at the forefront with these asylum seekers, [they] were not invited to the table," he said.