(The Center Square) – As the shipping containers in the Morelos Dam area of the Yuma sector of the border came down, the mayor of Yuma said that the federal government had been off to a slow start.
“There’s some areas that the containers went down and there’s no current plan by the feds to put anything up, but the Morelos Dam area is the area that really was causing a lot of problems in the last couple years, and so that was kind of seen as a priority area,” Mayor Douglas Nicholls told The Center Square Thursday.
“I know that the contractor is on site. I believe they’re a little slow getting started, but that’s not unexpected. But they are, they are there. I’ve not been to the site recently to see any sort of progress,” he added.
Former Gov. Doug Ducey ordered the containers to be placed at the border, and he agreed to take them down during the last days of his administration with the understanding the federal government, which sued, would replace them afterward.
Besides the border itself, Nicholls said there is a notable humanitarian impact on the city, and he responded to reports that the Yuma Regional Medical Center is struggling due to the high cost of migrant care.
“They’re not on the verge of collapse, but there has been some problems … getting reimbursed up to $20 million in a six-month period. Those are the things, things that, you know, are really, are not sustainable for our community,” Nicholls said. “Twenty million dollars of healthcare is a very large amount of healthcare. And so that’s gonna get covered somehow, probably in the cost that all the other users of the hospital pay.”
When asked if he’s had conversations with Gov. Katie Hobbs about the issue, he said that they briefly talked before she was inaugurated and then had a group discussion with other border mayors after she took office.
“Her perspective is more from the humanitarian side, which is fine. I think that doesn’t put us at odds with anything. Because border security, also as it would go, helps prevent people from being exploited by cartels,” he said, adding that Hobbs visiting Yuma has been discussed but not scheduled.
In terms of what the city currently needs, Nicholls said that the federal government needs to provide additional support, especially in the event that Title 42 is scrapped and their migrant encounter numbers spike once again.
“What we need is to make sure that there’s a plan when numbers get back out of control. Right now, we have a non-profit that handles all the releases. It would be, given the projected numbers that could happen after Title 42, beyond their capacity to handle that,” he said.
“And so what I would believe we need is the federal government to come in and either provide them all the resources they need, which means a bigger facility and without having to jump through a whole bunch of hoops and procurement issues because that’s not how you handle emergencies,” the mayor continued.
In the Yuma sector, there have been 80,486 encounters in the fiscal year 2023 so far, according to Customs and Border Protection data. However, there has been a downtick in recent weeks, with an average of 300 to 400 crossings daily, KYMA reported on Jan. 24.