PHOENIX — Migrant encounters at Arizona’s U.S.-Mexico border increased 60% from February to March, leading to the state’s attorney general filing a federal lawsuit challenging President Joe Biden’s immigration policy.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s latest lawsuit seeks for the border wall construction to resume, to halt the processing of asylum-seekers and to reinstate the “public charge” that penalizes migrants that request public benefits in the U.S.
“It’s the pinnacle of hypocrisy for the Biden Administration to claim it wants to protect our environment, while not enforcing federal statues that are specifically designed for that purpose,” said Brnovich in a statement when announcing the lawsuit.
"We’re not going to sit idly by as the Biden Administration ignores real harms to our state resulting from its heavy-handed executive orders.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency also sent funding to Pima County to cover the costs to care and house asylum-seekers.
When the wall construction began, immigration and environmental activists said the construction of such would disrupt and threatened the desert landscape and bisect native wildlife.
For Puente Human Rights Movement, a nonprofit that has been serving the migrant community since 2007, Brnovich's statements are frustrating, said communications director Isis Gil.
“We’re tired of the attorney general talking about security and safety when they are not thinking of us as humans,” said Gil. “And having the audacity to talk about the environment when what’s been happening at the border has hurt so much of our land already is outrageous.”
In March, Puente, along with Chicanos Por La Causa and the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, countersued the state attorney general and Department of Homeland Security for another measure Brnovich presented.
“When you talk about public charges, the majority of these people themselves wouldn’t even qualify for any resources in our country,” said Gil. “Given beyond that though, when you think about what America is supposed to stand for, you should be caring for people that come across in desperate need and humanitarian aid.”
Pima County has been aiding people during the recent migrant increase at the border. To help cover the costs, the county is now receiving a $2.1 million grant from FEMA.
The agency’s chief, Robert Fenton, was questioned on Wednesday at a Senate appropriations committee hearing, where he said the organization is aiding the Department of Health and Human Services with shelter capacity in California and Texas.
“Through three administrations, I have been involved in unaccompanied children,” Fenton said during the hearing. “One of our core values is compassion. We want to help out HHS with setting up shelter capacity for the children and we are going ahead and doing that with something that we do very well.”
The money in Pima County will go towards food, shelter, transportation, and medical care for migrants that cities and non-profits have spent.
“Some of this is a step in the right direction but it is very frustrating how and when money is given,” said Gil. “But hopefully soon we can get to a point where we see each other as human being and provide that dignity to each other.”