Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) today sent the following letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen regarding reports of large-scale releases of migrant family units apprehended in the Yuma Border Patrol Sector and detained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Full text of the letter is below and attached.
October 22, 2018
The Honorable Kirstjen M. Nielsen
Secretary of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
Dear Secretary Nielsen:
We are writing to follow up on reports of large-scale releases of migrant family units apprehended in the Yuma Border Patrol Sector and detained by the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”). Over the past several weeks, we have heard from local officials in Yuma, Arizona, and surrounding communities expressing concerns that the speed and scope of these releases are overwhelming the ability of local governments and the non-governmental organizations (“NGOs”) working with them to transport, house, feed, and otherwise care for migrants not in government custody.
At a hearing in the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on October 10, Senator Kyl discussed with you how releases of migrant family units apprehended in the Yuma Border Patrol Sector are making it exceedingly difficult for local communities to deal with the influx. In response, you promised to look into the issue, which we appreciate. We want to reinforce the importance and urgency of this matter and ask you to expedite your review, particularly as reports indicate that thousands of migrants are currently traveling through Mexico on their way to the U.S. border.
We recognize that DHS may be constrained by federal law and court decisions in whether and how long it may detain migrant family units. Nonetheless, if you are, in fact, required to release migrant family units, we respectfully request that more be done to assist local communities with the releases. As we ask below, we would like to know what additional financial and logistical resources Congress and the executive branch can provide to localities on the front lines of a crisis that they had no part in creating.
As you may know, the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee is expected to consider next month legislation that would, among other things, increase the legal authority and capacity for DHS to detain migrant family units pending immigration proceedings. In anticipation of such legislative activity, we submit the following questions to help guide the discussion.
1. How many migrant family units have been released into the general population in Yuma and surrounding communities without a post-release plan?
2. How does DHS determine which migrant family units to release and are public-safety factors considered?
3. How is DHS working with Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls and other state and local officials to develop a plan to assist their constituents with public safety and humanitarian risks posed by large-scale releases of migrant family units?
4. Has DHS been able to assess whether the NGOs who are currently assisting with this immigration problem are able to accommodate the increased number of family units presenting themselves along the Arizona border and being released without a post-release plan?
5. Are there additional existing federal resources that Yuma and other Arizona border communities could take advantage of to minimize the impact of large-scale migrant family unit releases on their communities?
6. Are there any gaps in federal law that impede the federal government’s ability to provide timely communication to and otherwise assist communities affected by large-scale releases of migrant family units?
Thank you very much for your attention to this important issue. We look forward to your timely response.
Jon Kyl Jeff Flake
United States Senator United States Senator