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Arizona Aid Groups Seek More Shelter Space As Migrant Releases Grow

Aid groups and Homeland Security were preparing months ago for the potential increase of migrants released in metro Phoenix, according to a 14-page document sent to local, state and federal officials.

The number of migrants released daily in metro Phoenix was roughly 50. Now it’s as many as 150, said Stanford Prescott, community engagement coordinator for the International Rescue Committee in Arizona.

“The most pressing need is the need for additional shelter space,” he said.

There have been meetings with architects and engineers about expanding a local shelter. But it would cost a lot of money. Other overflow options could be churches or government-owned buildings.

“At this time we have not identified an off-site shelter location,” Prescott said.

Collaboration between aid groups and government officials is much improved since the last wave of migration in 2018-19, he said.

Aid groups hope to access federal money in the pandemic relief bill signed by President Joe Biden.

Prescott said the bill set aside $110 million to support nonprofits and local governments near the border that help asylum-seekers coming into the U.S.

“We’re still awaiting details on exactly how this new funding will work. But if there is funding available to help support this work, we will apply for it and pursue it if we are eligible,” he said. 

Groups that helped migrants 2018-19 could apply for reimbursement through FEMA.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn has a bill that would offer reimbursement to nonprofits and local governments near the border.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.