U.S. politicians put the lives of immigrants at risk in Arizona

Arizona officials threatened to close vital migrant shelters and warned of a severe spike in homelessness if they cannot secure federal funding for migrant services. Despite the rise in immigrants being released by the U.S. Border Patrol into Pima County Arizona, with a record of 46,000 people released there in December of 2023, Pima County stated plans to end its contract with the Casa Alitas migrant housing and services program by the end of this March. There are no solid plans for the government to provide alternative assistance, only incomplete ideas for building public bathrooms and use of an inactive jail as housing for the potential influx of homeless immigrants.

Casa Alias, which has sheltered and assisted nearly 400,000 predominantly Latin American migrants since its founding in 2014, plans to fire 66% of its employees and limit housing to 140 people per day — a decrease of 1,000% from its standard capacity of 1,400 people per day — in anticipation of the forced shutdown of its operations. A reduction in the program’s services would mean a loss of shelter, food, and transportation for migrants. Casa Alitas will require an estimated $60 million per year for its services to continue at a rate consistent with the county’s reception of immigrants and the county cannot afford this budget without federal funding, according to Pima County administrator Jan Lesher.

The U.S. Senate just passed a spending bill on March 23, six months after the start of the fiscal year. The bill includes $650 million in Homeland Security spending for migrant sheltering and services. This should provide some relief for the Casa Alitas program and immigrants in Pima County, but the government should not be excused for its last-minute decision. Casa Alitas shelter manager, Daniel Pina Lopez, explained that, even if Congress provides funding, it will still take time for the shelter to resume operations as usual, meaning immigrants that the program could have otherwise served could still face homelessness, hunger, and an overall lack of assistance.

This time, the U.S. government narrowly decided to provide basic human necessities to millions of new migrants seeking asylum, but decisions for the well-being of people should not be delayed and should not be contentious. Why does the decision-making structure allow for shutdowns and lapses in services when those in power seem to be unable to make up their minds? More importantly, why should the U.S. government get to cherry-pick whose lives are worth supporting?

The impending humanitarian crisis for immigrants in Arizona indicates a broader systemic issue, and goes way beyond the Democrats and Republicans posturing about how to manage immigration. The failure of the U.S. government to act proactively in service of immigrants represents the inability and unwillingness of the political system to prioritize people over capitalist interests. At the end of the day, Biden’s policy is the same as Trump’s because they are presiding over the same economic system — one that displaces and exploits people, and discards them when they are unnecessary to profit-making. Policing the border and making people illegal is part of the regular functioning of capitalism. Trump flaunts his anti-immigrant policies and racism, while Biden promises to defend immigrants while carrying out effectively the same policies. None of the politicians care about immigrant workers.