Hobbs talks “partnership” with Mayorkas at border 

Hobbs talks “partnership” with Mayorkas at border 

Mayorkas, Hobbs, border
Gov. Katie Hobbs, left, speaks as Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas looks on during a press conference at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales, Ariz., on Tuesday. (Photo by Kelly Presnell/Arizona Daily Star via AP)

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas traveled to Arizona on Tuesday for a border tour with Gov. Katie Hobbs, a sign of changing relations between the state and the federal government in connection with border issues. 

During the day trip to Tucson and Nogales, Hobbs and Mayorkas visited a migrant shelter, Tucson Border Patrol station, health center and one of the international ports in Nogales. Speaking to reporters at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales on Tuesday afternoon, both talked about plans for collaboration on drug smuggling and immigration.  

“The only way out of this crisis is through partnership – between state and tribal and federal governments and stakeholders,” Hobbs said, speaking specifically about fentanyl trafficking and consumption. 

On immigration, however, Hobbs and Mayorkas also indicated there’s limits to what they can do, arguing it’s mostly up to Congress to fix what Mayorkas called a “fundamentally broken immigration system.”  

The trip was Hobbs’ second to the Arizona border region as governor (she also visited Nogales, Mexico last month) and it’s the first time that Mayorkas has visited the state in the company of an Arizona governor. 

The day trip didn’t yield any major policy announcements, but it came as state and federal officials prepare for the rollback of Title 42 authority in April. That change in federal immigration policy will stop the rapid removal process that’s been used to quickly send back many migrants who entered the country since 2020, based on a public health rule. 

President Joe Biden’s administration implemented new, restrictive policies around asylum earlier this year, in a bid to slow the pace of immigration to the country, but the end of Title 42 is seen as a potential trigger for an increase in migrant arrivals. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics indicate that unauthorized migration has slowed in the early months of 2023, but is still at high levels compared to recent years. In the Border Patrol’s Tucson and Yuma sectors – which cover the Arizona border region – agents detained about 34,000 migrants last month. 

There are signs that Hobbs’ preparations for any increase are geared towards getting more of the migrants crossing into Arizona out of the state.  

A news release sent on Monday said that the governor met last week with nonprofit groups, as well as representatives from Greyhound Lines (the interstate bus company) and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Those meetings “centered discussions around transportation and housing options for migrants seeking asylum.” 

Hobbs and Mayorkas’ stops on Tuesday included meetings with El Rio Community Health Center and the Arizona Border Counties Coalition. 

Getting migrants who cross into Arizona out of Arizona would be an extension of the policies Hobbs has already put in place as governor. 

After criticizing her predecessor, former Gov. Doug Ducey, for setting up a busing program that sent hauled migrants to Washington, Hobbs kept the same transportation contract in place and is now sending individuals to different destinations around the country.  

The decision by Mayorkas to visit came after Hobbs, a Democrat, struck a different tone towards Mayorkas and the Biden administration than Ducey, a Republican.  

Ducey had also asked Mayorkas to meet with him to talk about border issues, but the invitation had come in the midst of stinging criticism of the Homeland Security secretary and Biden’s leadership on border issues. Last year, Ducey was one of several Republican officials who called for Mayorkas to resign. 

Hobbs, for her part, has praised the Democratic administration’s border moves. 

Among the other changes rolled out by the Biden administration this year is a mobile application for asylum seekers to submit information and set up an appointment with U.S. immigration officials. The new CBP One app has been plagued by technical problems and faced criticism from lawmakers in Congress who say it curtails migrants’ rights. 

But Mayorkas defended the “efficiency” of the app in response to questions on Tuesday, saying it’s already being used to process large numbers of asylum seeker applications.