Nov 17, 2023 - News

Arizona transports 26,000 asylum seekers under Hobbs

Gov. Katie Hobbs delivers her State of the State address at the Arizona House on Jan. 9. Photo: Jeremy Duda/Axios

Arizona's migrant busing program that began under former Republican Gov. Doug Ducey last year has not only continued under his Democratic successor, but expanded dramatically.

By the numbers: Under Gov. Katie Hobbs, the state has transported 26,513 asylum seekers since taking office in January, her administration told Axios Phoenix on Tuesday.

  • That cost the state about $5.7 million, Hobbs spokesperson Christian Slater said.
  • Ducey transported more than 3,000 asylum seekers from Yuma to Washington, D.C. through the beginning of January when his term ended.

The intrigue: As of early October, Slater said the administration had bused 15,228 people this year to destinations both in- and out of state, at a cost of about $4.2 million.

  • It's unclear what caused the apparent spike over the past month.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the agency saw a 14% decrease last month in migrant encounters along the southwest border, but there wasn't a corresponding decrease in the Tucson sector.

Zoom in: Slater said the ramp-up in the busing program was intentional and meant to "decompress" communities seeing an influx of migrants.

  • It was partly a response to the end of the federal Title 42 policy in May.
  • Enacted during the pandemic, it allowed for the automatic expulsion of migrants crossing the border on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Context: Ducey began his program in Yuma last year, partnering with a local nonprofit that transported migrants to Washington, D.C., where another nonprofit helped them reach their final destinations.

  • Under Hobbs, the focus of the program shifted to Tucson because that's where the resources were most needed, Slater said.
  • Her administration has been working closely with the nonprofit Casa Alitas in Tucson for its busing program.

Of note: Arizona's busing program, under both Ducey and Hobbs, is substantially different from migrant busing policies implemented by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

  • Those states don't limit their programs to asylum seekers, and transport migrants to other largely Democratic-controlled cities.
  • Texas, which has the most consistent busing program, has sent more than 50,000 migrants out of state.

Flashback: During her gubernatorial campaign last year, Hobbs was initially critical of Ducey's program and said she'd end it if elected. She later reversed course, saying the policy "provides support to those local communities" and helps people get to their final destinations.

  • Hobbs also began using flights to transport migrants, though Slater said that's done through the federal government and nonprofits, and that the numbers he provided were only for busing.

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