Democrats accuse Republicans of blocking Hobbs' border support plan

By Wayne Schutsky
Published: Friday, December 15, 2023 - 1:25pm

Alisa Reznick/KJZZ
An Border Patrol agent armed with a pepper ball gun stands in front of a lineup of some 750 migrants waiting for processing.

Democratic Arizona state lawmakers say Republicans are stalling a request by Gov. Katie Hobbs to send more resources to Arizona’s border with Mexico.

The Hobbs administration sought to reallocate around $23 million from the Department of Emergency and Military Affairs to support local law enforcement and border operations, like the state’s migrant bussing program.

A spokesman for the governor said continuing the bussing program is an important tool to reduce “street releases” of migrants in overwhelmed border communities. That program spent over $6 million this year through November to transport 38,136 migrants, according to DEMA.

The Hobbs administration said it is transporting asylum seekers to their intended destinations and to be closer to sponsor families.

But the reallocation of funds needs the approval of the Legislature’s budget committee, and the Republican Rep. David Livingston (R-Peoria), who chairs that committee, left the request off the agenda Thursday, its last meeting of the year.

'We just keep going back and forth'

david livingston
Livingston for Treasurer
David Livingston

Democrats accused Republicans of playing politics.

“It's pretty clear that Republicans would rather perpetuate the crisis at the border for political purposes rather than take direct action or work together to address the problem,” House Minority Leader Lupe Contreras (D-Avondale) said in a press release.

Livingston said the committee reviews requests from agencies well in advance of its meetings before deciding what to include on the agenda. He accused Hobbs of initially requesting to move National Guard troops off the border about a month ago  — Livingston said she changed her mind after the federal government closed the port of entry at Lukeville in response to a migrant surge.

Though he said he is happy the governor altered her request, Livingston said the new plan did not change significantly enough to win his support.

“We’re going back and forth, but every time the governor gives us something, there’s not enough detail in it, and they haven’t answered all the questions,” Livingston said. “So we just keep going back and forth.”

National Guard requests

Hobbs abortion signatures
Katherine Davis-Young/KJZZ
Gov. Katie Hobbs speaks to reporters on Nov. 28, 2023 before signing a petition to put an abortion rights measure on Arizona ballots in 2024.

Emails provided by DEMA show it answered a series of questions about the request submitted by legislative staff on Dec. 7, including information about the bussing program and increased funding for DEMA’s emergency operations center, which coordinates support for border operations and statewide responses to natural disasters

Livingston also said he was unsatisfied with several aspects of the governor’s request, including a proposal to move National Guard troops from Tucson to border areas in need of reinforcements like Lukeville, where the federal government recently shut down a port of entry in response to an influx of migrants crossing the border.

“Tucson needs to be protected, but so does Yuma and so does Lukeville,” Livingston said. “We need additional National Guard down there.”

Hobbs asked President Joe Biden to move National Guard troops from Tucson to Lukeville last week, but a letter requesting the funding reallocation sent to the legislative budget committee by DEMA on Dec. 12 doesn’t specifically mention moving those troops. 

However, DEMA is the parent agency that houses the Arizona National Guard, and the letter does ask for the reallocation of $10 million to build out its emergency operations center. 

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PoliticsImmigration Southwest Border