Pinal County Sheriff sees shift in smuggling routes, as Title 42 nears end

The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office says it’s seeing human traffickers take U.S. 60 to avoid all the law enforcement patrolling along Interstate 10
Published: Apr. 27, 2023 at 5:24 PM MST|Updated: Apr. 27, 2023 at 5:27 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — We are just two weeks away from lifting of the border policy known as Title 42, a pandemic policy that lets Border Patrol turn away asylum seekers to prevent the spread of Covid-19. If that health emergency expires, many expect a surge in migrants at the border in weeks ahead.

“We do expect that encounters at our southern border will increase as smugglers are seeking to take advantage of this change and already are hard at work spreading disinformation that the border will be open,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.

Arizona border mayors are in Washington, D.C., this week begging the feds for additional resources. While this is happening, deputies in Pinal County say they are seeing a new trend in human trafficking — a shift in the regular smuggling routes.

The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office says it’s seeing human traffickers take U.S. 60 to avoid all the law enforcement patrolling along Interstate 10. A spokesperson tells Arizona’s Family there were three separate smuggling stops along U.S. 60 in Queen Valley today, all before noon. A new video from PCSO shows migrants squeezed into the back of a trunk of a Lexus. PCSO says there were nine people inside the car, all were turned over to Border Patrol. On Wednesday, deputies tried to stop three cars along U.S. 60 near Queen Valley and they say 40 undocumented immigrants ran off into the desert. This comes at a time when the border is the center of conversation. PCSO says they have their anti-smuggling units patrolling U.S. 60.

“We have a humanitarian obligation to cut the smugglers out,” Mayorkas said.

Yuma’s mayor, Douglas Nicholls, says President Biden should declare a state of emergency at the border. He also wants the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to take over housing migrants. “The transitional sheltering that migrants require doesn’t exist in our community,” Nicholls said. “We have two buses a day that come — that bring people to other communities for those transportation options, but those buses are generally mostly full anyway. So, if you release 50 people, it could take days to get out of town.”

Our crews spent the day at a shelter in Mexico this winter and got a firsthand look at the desperation of those waiting to cross over.

“They can’t go back to places of origin due to reasons they fled which is mostly because of violence,” Gia Del Pino with the Kino Border Initiative Shelter said in December.

Often times when migrants do cross over, they will go into shelters that provide basic necessities. While it’s unclear what could happen in the next two weeks, Mayorkas says his department is working toward a solution. “This is a hemispheric challenge that demands hemispheric solutions, working with our neighbors in the region,” he said.