Flights added as an option to transport immigrants from Arizona-Mexico border

Gov. Hobbs also keeps bus program to send immigrants closer to “their final destination”
According to a new contract obtained by Arizona's Family. Gov. Katie Hobbs plans to bus and fly migrants out of state and to their destinations.
Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 5:31 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — What started as an operation by then-Gov. Doug Ducey to bus immigrants from the border to Washington D.C. is now taking off under the administration of Gov. Katie Hobbs. In a contract signed on Jan. 13, the Hobbs administration renewed the busing of immigrants from the Arizona border, but also added in the option of using flights to transport immigrants from the border. The contract uses the same vendor as before, AMI Expeditionary Healthcare, but adds language allowing the vendor to use air transportation.

In the agreement, AMI can provide transportation via a 737 aircraft to a designated location approved by the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs. The plane would support up to 150 immigrants plus support staff and the vendor should have the ability to charter one flight per month if requested by AZDEMA. Immigrants on the planned flight would be provided with “at least one meal.”

At a press conference on Friday, Hobbs addressed the bus program existing in her administration, saying it helps border communities. Hobbs also implied that the destinations might change under her program. Under Ducey’s plan, the buses only operated a one-way trip from the Arizona border to Washington, D.C., but Hobbs suggested her plan might take immigrants closer to where they would like to go. “I think its something that provides support to those local communities [along the border],” Gov. Hobbs said. “If we’re spending money to bus people, why not just get them to their final destination?”

One thing missing from the contract signed in the Hobbs Administration is how much this contract is worth. Under the contract signed in the Ducey Administration, costs were between $73,000-$82,000 per trip. The new contract does not list a price for each bus trip or flight but said the prices will be “equal to or better than the lowest prices.”

Arizona’s Family has reached out to the Governor’s Office for clarification on how much the contract is worth and if destinations have changed in the busing program. We’ve also asked whether the state has used the flight option to transport immigrants.

At the press conference Friday, Hobbs was also asked about the shipping containers that were once used to form a makeshift wall along the border by Gov. Ducey. Hobbs said her office is still looking for other uses for those containers since the state purchased them. “It’s really unfortunate that almost $200 million was spent on this shipping container publicity stunt,” Hobbs told Arizona’s Family Investigative Reporter Morgan Loew. “We’re looking for ways to creatively repurpose the shipping containers that have been purchased by the taxpayers of Arizona.”

Before leaving office, Ducey entered an agreement with the federal government to start taking the containers down from the border. Ducey’s spokesperson at the time said they entered into the agreement after receiving word from the Biden Administration that work would soon begin on gaps in the Arizona border.