Disturbing photos obtained by the Washington Examiner show the misery wrought by a massive surge in illegal migration in western Arizona: thousands of people stranded in overcrowded makeshift facilities amid soaring COVID-19 infection rates and no sign things will get better anytime soon.
Four people familiar with the dire situation, and the Biden administration’s botched response, said the photos underscore the danger the migrants, border officials, and the remote community of Yuma are living under amid the crisis.
Between September and November, more than 65,000 noncitizens were caught illegally crossing into Yuma from Mexico, a number higher than encounters in a typical year. More than 1,500 people were in custody at one point this week, according to Rafa Rivera, regional president of the National Border Patrol Council.
“Usually around this time through the holidays, it slows down, but here in Yuma, it was constant,” said Rivera.
Those in custody are discharged — released into the United States, returned to their home country, or pushed south of the border — within a day or two of being taken into custody at the border due to the lack of space and need for quick turnover of holding space for new arrivals.
The surge has only grown in December, but the extent of it is unknown because U.S. Customs and Border Protection has yet to release apprehension numbers for the month.
On Dec. 9, Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls declared a state of emergency after 6,000 people were taken into custody by Border Patrol in five days, which is as many as were intercepted in an average month over the past 20 years.
The Border Patrol’s three holding stations throughout the Yuma region are filled with people, as well as its outdoor tent, which has been brimming with occupants for months. Noncitizens arriving at the border are increasingly coming from countries further away than Central America, including Russia, Afghanistan, Georgia, Cuba, Brazil, and Haiti. Those detained in the tent sleep on the ground with no space between them.