/ Modified dec 4, 2023 4:58 p.m.

Record numbers and funding change could lead to migrant street releases in Pima County

As the number of migrants continues to surge at the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona, Pima County worries whether they’ll keep up, serving well over 1,000 people a day for weeks.

360 CASA ALITAS Alvina Martinez and her 9-year-old daughter walk out of Casa Alitas, a shelter for immigrants run by Catholic Community Services, on Thursday, November 1, 2018. The pair are seeking asylum from Guatemala.
AZPM Staff

A record number of migrants receiving services in Tucson is pushing the county even closer to the possibility of street releases.

Data shows October saw a record number of migrants served through Pima County, at more than 28,500 people. And according to preliminary estimates, November is likely to have exceeded more than 30,000.

Mark Evans with the county says the last six weeks have been a sustained surge that the county has never seen before. The county will have served more migrants this year, by the time it’s over, than they did in the previous four years combined.

To complicate things even more, the county has to switch its federal funding source this month, ahead of schedule, which comes with new restrictions on transportation and sheltering migrants at hotels.

These new rules will decrease the number of people the county can afford to shelter overnight to about 700 people. The daily averages of asylum seekers the county serves have been more than 1-thousand for weeks.

“With the reduction in the amount of money that we’re able to spend and how we’re able to spend it and the reduction in capacity that we’re going to have, what we’ve been trying to avoid for four years, which is street releases,” Evans said. “Where those occur yet is going to be a matter of the situation from day to day, whether it’s Santa Cruz County, Cochise County or Pima County or all three.”

Over the summer, the county was spending about $2 million a month on migrant services. That has since doubled to $4 million monthly.

Evans says if street releases do occur, the county will try to prioritize more vulnerable populations, such as families with children, for overnight shelter.

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