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Kelly, Sinema renew calls for federal migrant care funding, warning of Arizona street releases

Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema
Gage Skidmore/CC BY 2.0, Office of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema
Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema.

U.S. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly are again calling on Congress to renew funding for Pima County’s migrant and asylum-seeker assistance programs.

Pima County, the city of Tucson and local aid groups have been using local donations and federal money to provide aid to migrants and asylum seekers released by the Border Patrol to await immigration hearings in the U.S.

But county officials warn existing federal funds will run out this month, and without more money, they’ll be forced to alter and wind down services. Aid groups in Phoenix face a similar funding cliff in June.

In a letter to House and Senate appropriations committee leaders, Kelly and Sinema say lawmakers should allocate some $750 million to the Shelter and Services Program — the federal initiative that local governments like Pima County pull from for migrant care.

"Arizona’s border communities and charitable organizations are stretched thin as they continue to assume a federal government function," the letter read. "With Arizona’s FY 2023 funding almost fully exhausted, some grantees are winding down operations, creating a risk that migrants will be released into the streets of local Arizona communities."

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Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.