Sinema brings Arizona leaders to Washington to pressure Senate action on border crisis | Sinema for Arizona
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Kyrsten Sinema

Sinema brings Arizona leaders to Washington to pressure Senate action on border crisis

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) hosted a panel of local officials from Arizona in Washington this week as part of an effort to bring their stories on the impact of the border crisis into public view and pressure the Biden administration to do more.

The Democratic-turned-independent senator led a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday afternoon to let leaders from across the state share the realities of life in border communities.


Democrat Clea McCaa II, mayor of Sierra Vista, a city of 45,000 residents that is 45 driving miles from the closest border crossing, described an idyllic town shaken by the sudden influx of police speeding through the town in pursuit of human smugglers over the past two years.

“It is a crisis,” said McCaa. “We have … four to five pursuits a day going through our town.”

McCaa’s citizens had witnessed the reckless behavior of smugglers, oftentimes minors from out of state recruited on apps like TikTok to make fast cash by picking up and driving illegal immigrants who crossed the border without getting caught.

“One incident that’s etched in my mind is a load car driver hitting a 65-year-old woman … going to a birthday party,” said McCaa. “Her son was trying to get to the birthday party as well and passed the accident. He did not know that that was his mother. We had to tell him that that was … his mother. Her name was Miss Wanda.”

Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls testified that his border city’s nearly 100,000 residents were concerned about what would happen in several weeks when public health policy Title 42 is rescinded and border authorities lose the ability to expel immigrants back to Mexico immediately.

Nicholls, a Republican, has declared citywide emergencies twice in recent years as more than 500 people were put onto the downtown streets each day in December 2021 and the city was unprepared to respond.

Nicholls demanded on Wednesday that the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency be brought in to handle all immigration matters because it was a federal issue.

“Federal government needs to own the entirety of the situation and not push it off to local governments and [nongovernmental organizations],” Nicholls said.

Immigrants who crossed the border in Yuma have ruined portions of farmers’ fields, costing landowners $10,000 in losses per acre and workers their wages. Yuma is a top national supplier of produce during the winter months but must destroy crops that have been trampled on.

Dr. Francisco Garcia, chief medical officer for Pima, said the county has processed 150,000 illegal immigrants released onto its streets since 2019.

“This is a crisis. It is using up resources that we need to use for other purposes,” Garcia said. “Federal agencies have signaled that we expect twice that number after [May 11]. If that happens, we will be overwhelmed, and there will be many hundreds of people per day left to fend for themselves on the streets of Pima County.”

The top-ranking Republican member invited a police chief from Oklahoma to share with the panel how his city had been affected by the events at the border despite being so far away.


McAlester Police Chief Kevin Hearod said one of his officers was killed in the line of duty when an illegal immigrant crashed into the officer’s vehicle. The deceased officer, Joseph Barlow, was killed on March 20 while he was escorting the former police chief in a funeral procession.

Hearod additionally said drugs were the greatest issue in his community and that the large majority originated in Mexico and were then trafficked into the United States, including throughout Oklahoma.


Read full article here.