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Growing number of migrants arriving at Sky Harbor putting a strain on employees

Hundreds of migrants are arriving daily, and many don’t have finalized travel plans when they arrive, so airport staff is stepping in to help.
Published: Apr. 15, 2022 at 8:59 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- The number of people coming to the southern border to seek asylum is growing. It’s now also putting a strain on workers at Sky Harbor airport. Hundreds of migrants are arriving daily, and many don’t have finalized travel plans when they arrive, so airport staff is stepping in to help.

Arizona’s Family spoke with a handful of migrants at the airport. They came from different places like Cuba, Peru and Haiti. Up to 400 migrants arrive at Sky Harbor each day with nothing but the clothes on their backs, a plastic bag full of personal information and a COVID-19 test.

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, they transport those who have bonded out of their custody to places like bus stations or airports like Sky Harbor. An airport spokesperson confirmed that the migrants are dropped off by buses from Immigration and Customs Enforcement or an NGO based in Yuma.

Many, like a man we spoke to from Haiti, are not prepared to travel. The man tells Arizona’s Family he came to the U.S. eight days ago and traveled in a group. He was in ICE custody and now has a flight to Philadelphia, where his wife and daughter are, but he had to ask people for help booking his trip.

“I left Haiti because there are a lot of problems. The world knows about all of the problems there,” he said.

An airport spokesperson says many migrants don’t have money or basic necessities like food and diapers. Another man Arizona’s Family spoke with, also from Haiti, asked for our help booking a hotel but needed to reach family members over the phone to pay for it.

Airport staff has stepped in, offering the use of phones and translating services. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema was vocal about this topic, saying employees are “not trained or skilled in the area of providing short-term humanitarian or physical support to migrants.”

Those released will now join the backlog of asylum cases in immigration courts, where asylum claim hearing wait times are just under five years. “I don’t care what I do or what kind of job, but I am looking for a better life,” the man from Haiti said. “My family hopes I can help and send them money one day.”

If migrants can’t get a flight to friends or family, airport staff will contact a local nonprofit to pick them up; however, they could have to wait overnight at the airport if space is limited.