GILA BEND, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - The crisis at the Mexico border is now taking a major toll on an Arizona town. Loads of migrants are being dropped off with nowhere to go in Gila Bend. Mayor Chris Riggs declared a state of emergency in Gila Bend Tuesday, with a unanimous Town Council vote. It’s the night after Monday’s drop of 16 more migrants.
Gila Bend is a town of only 2,000 people with no hospital and no shelters.
The mayor said they simply have no resources, and they don’t see an end in sight. The 16 migrants were dropped off by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in town at a park. The families were from Venezuela and Chile with young children.
“To drop people in basically the middle of nowhere, it's 30 miles to the next type of town, and that’s 30 miles of open desert. So especially come July and August, we’re going to be finding bodies,” said Mayor Riggs.
Riggs said he and his wife ended up using loaned vans to drive the families themselves to the Phoenix Welcome Center so they would have a safe place to stay.
Riggs said Border Patrol told them to expect this to keep happening, which worries the mayor as Arizona is heading toward its hot summer months.
“They said it would be easy for us to see two drops per week,” Riggs said.
“For a year?” asked reporter Briana Whitney.
“Oh, this is indefinite,” Mayor Riggs said. “I can’t tolerate the thought of little kids having to walk through the hot desert."
But not all communities can handle the sudden wave of border crossers entering Arizona.
Last week, the mayor said Sen. Kyrsten Sinema helped turn a bus of migrants around right before it got to Gila Bend with 30 people on board.
He said to get migrants into town outside of government transportation, they need to be COVID-19 tested, and the town doesn’t have the money to afford that.
Riggs is hoping by declaring a state of emergency, it sends a message to the state and Maricopa County that they need more help and fast.
“Just talking to the migrants, they said this is just beginning. And that’s straight out of their mouths,” Riggs said.
In a vague statement to Arizona’s Family, Border Patrol officials said that they are protecting the health and safety of the migrants and that the border is not open and a vast majority of people are being returned.
The Gila Bend mayor is calling on President Joe Biden and the federal government to do something, as the situation is out of hand with no plan in place.