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Arizona border town declares state of emergency over migrant crisis

Migrants in Matamoros, Mexico. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
March 23, 2021

The mayor of Gila Bend, Ariz., announced on Tuesday that he is declaring a state of emergency as a result of the worsening border crisis, and condemned President Joe Biden’s administration for transporting illegal immigrants to his town by bus.

Mayor Chris Riggs told FOX Business that Gila Bend is not prepared to handle the influx of migrants, particularly in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Border Patrol let us know that they were going to be dropping migrants that had been detained for 72 hours in our town, which we really didn’t understand because we have nothing here,” Riggs said. “We have no charity organizations that can help, no non-governmental organizations that a lot of the larger cities and towns do have to assist these people.”

The small-town mayor said people are being sent to his town without any plan for food or shelter. With a population of just 2,000 people, Gila Bend has not received any federal, state or local funding to help take on the illegal immigrants, Riggs said.

He noted that testing just two busloads of people for coronavirus every week for a year would cost a minimum of $600,000.

The financial strain is just one part of the town’s concerns – at least 20 illegal immigrants have arrived to Gila Bend on foot every day, Riggs added, and violent crime has spiked, as well.  

A political independent, Riggs said the Biden administration had left his city “completely in the dark” on the migrants who are being transported there.

“We’re a very economically depressed community. We can barely afford to take care of the people that we have here in our community now,” Riggs told FOX. “And as of the 2nd [of March], Border Patrol advised us they’re basically going to drop people off here and [say] ‘They’re your problem.’”

Riggs said his town is home to a number of seniors and elders who are “very susceptible to COVID,” and the lack of information on the migrants health is a point of great concern for the small community.

“They’re not able to give us how many. They can’t give us what background[s] these people are. They can’t tell us what their health issues are.” Riggs said. “We have not seen the [coronavirus] outbreak that other areas have seen in Arizona, yet we’re going to get punished for [the federal government’s] choices.”

“We are completely in the dark,” he continued. “Give us something. We’re still not getting anything. So I mean, we’re really frustrated with how we’re being treated through a crisis that they started.”