At Casa Alitas Migrant Shelter, Sinema Discusses How Administration’s Mismanagement of Border Security Funds Hurts Local Communities

Sep 11, 2023

At Casa Alitas in Tucson, Senator discussed how the Administration’s failure to properly allocate funds she secured hurts border community’s ability to manage the influx of migrants

TUCSON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema met with local border nonprofits, stakeholders, and advocates at Casa Alitas to discuss how the Administration’s failure to fairly allocate funds she secured for the migrant Shelter and Services Program hurts Arizona communities’ ability to manage the influx of migrants and secure the border.

The Senator discussed solutions with roundtable participants and toured Casa Alitas’ new facility, which has significantly increased the nonprofits’ migrant shelter capacity. 

“Instead of prioritizing the Shelter and Services Program funding for border communities, the Administration awarded more money to East Coast cities than the entire state of Arizona – hurting Arizonans’ ability to do their jobs, endangering migrant lives, and putting the safety of our communities at risk. We’ll continue holding the Administration accountable to improve the program and ensure it works for Arizona as Congress intended,” said Sinema. 

In the Fiscal Year 2023 appropriations bill, Sinema secured $800 million to create the new Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Shelter and Services Program (SSP) to help cover the costs incurred by local government agencies and non-governmental organizations to manage migrant encounters at the border. Instead of prioritizing Southwest border communities with the $800 million Sinema secured for a new CBP SSP, which was specifically authorized by Congress to assist border communities that are directly affected by the border crisis, the Administration awarded East Coast cities, such as New York City, more than the entire state of Arizona.

During the discussion, the Senator heard from nonprofits about the changes that must be made to the SSP to ensure the program works for Arizonans – including increased funding availability, clearer communication, and additional support. If the program is not improved, organizations like Casa Alitas, the Regional Center for Border Health in Yuma, and the International Rescue Committee in Phoenix may not be able to continue providing migrant services, causing a complete humanitarian and security crisis.

Participants in Sinema’s roundtable discussion included Casa Alitas Director Diego Lopez, Catholic Community Services COO Teresa Cavendish, Pima County Deputy County Administrator and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia, Pima County Director of Grants Management and Innovation Regina Kelly, Pima County Office of Emergency Management Director Shane Clark, City of Tucson Chief of Staff to City Manager Lane Mandle, International Rescue Committee Executive Director Aaron Rippenkroeger, International Rescue Committee Asylum Seekers & Families Director Jason Phillips, Regional Center for Border Health CEO Amanda Aguirre, World Hunger Ecumenical Arizona Task-Force (WHEAT) CEO Dr. Tamera Zivic, WHEAT Director of EFSP / SSP Katie Vallecorsa, and others.

Last month, Sinema and fellow Arizona Senator Mark Kelly sent a letter outlining seven specific issue areas that must be addressed to avoid a humanitarian and security crisis. If the Administration is unable to address these issues, the letter demands the funds be administered through the Emergency Food and Shelter Program rather than SSP.