On April 16, 2019, Mayor Douglas Nicholls of Yuma declared a state of emergency due to the increased number of illegal immigrants seeking asylum in Yuma. His statements have been turned into sensationalized headlines for almost every major news outlet in Arizona and the U.S.
These headlines have manipulated what he said into a support for President Trump’s racist rhetoric toward illegal immigrants in America. Many people have probably seen the headlines “Yuma Mayor Declares State of Emergency Due to ‘Imminent Threat of Illegals.’” That is not at all what Mayor Nicholls said nor does it highlight the main point of his statements.
Yuma has seen an increase in asylum seekers, not because there has been an increase of immigrants from south of the border, but because there has been an increase in Border Patrol presence across the national border. Meaning that there has been an increase of arrests on the border, which leads the asylum seekers through the system and either detains them or releases them to nonprofits such as the Salvation Army.
These non-profits are the only resources currently being used to help the asylum seekers, which Mayor Nicholls stated in his interview on Fox News. These nonprofits will soon require help from the city government due to the fact that they are experiencing overcrowding and dwindling resources.
The real reason behind declaring a state of emergency is not due to the fact that Yuma faces “imminent danger” from illegal immigrants but because eventually the community will need resources to support all the people that the Border Patrol is processing and not taking care of. Mayor Nicholls told KYMA, the local news station in Yuma, that he does not expect any kind of danger from these immigrants but wants attention to be brought to his community so that the federal government responds with effective help.
Yuma is not the only community facing this humanitarian crisis, which is exactly what this is. People are being crowded into shelters that can barely provide enough food, water, and hygiene. We have a crisis happening on our border that needs to be met with resources and solutions that are not imprisonment or actions that could further endanger these people.
News stations across America have, instead of increasing attention to this crisis so that the federal government is held accountable, decided to sensationalize and feed more into the anger and fear that President Trump had created by painting a dangerous and false scene of what is happening on our borders.
Instead of facing this humanitarian crisis with polarizing and hateful ideas, our government should be looking for a solution. Our government would rather argue about who deserves what funding instead of finding long-term solutions, such as a complete overhaul and change in our immigration and naturalization processes. The media, whether they lean right or left, should also be calling for real changes instead of championing specific agendas that benefit no one.
I grew up in Yuma and have grown tired of seeing my hometown be turned into a battleground of policy and power. I currently am attending Arizona State University and am frustrated with how many people ask me, “What’s it like down there at the border?” as if I come from a crime-ridden, poverty-stricken town that is being overrun by dangerous “illegal aliens.” My hometown is actually a close-knit, strong community that is oriented around family, faith, and community.
Our mayor is not asking to be saved from immigrants but rather asking for resources to help these people until Congress decides to actually be effective and solve this decades-long crisis. I think it is also important to point out that Yuma is the winter vegetable growing capital of the world. This means that places all over the world heavily rely upon my hometown for food. Agriculture in America heavily relies upon migrant workers for cheap labor to harvest and maintain fields. These workers are often immigrants themselves working for a living to support their families. Without this labor, our country and several others would be in fear of food shortages or price increases making certain food less accessible.
So, before anyone starts chanting for closed borders and ridding this country of immigrants, maybe we should take a step back to realize what contributions immigrants have made to our country and what actions are really best for our nation as a world leader and moral role model. Mayor Nicholls is asking for assistance and, unless people understand the true message of his statements, will go unnoticed by our nation.
Katie Compton is a sophomore at Arizona State University.