Arizona sends federal government $512 million bill for picking up border slack

An unidentified migrant father and his son, from Honduras, wait to be processed after passing through a gap in the border wall in Yuma, Ariz., on Wednesday, June 9, 2021, to seek asylum in the United States. Eugene Garcia / AP

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs is pushing the federal government to reassign National Guard troops and reimburse the state government for border-related expenses.

In a letter to President Joe Biden, Hobbs is requesting that the 243 National Guard troops already on federal orders in the Tucson Sector be redirected to helping with the Lukeville Port of Entry’s reopening.

She also said that she wants “additional National Guard members currently on federal active duty orders to be reassigned to Arizona to assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection to reopen the Lukeville Port of Entry.”

In addition, the governor included in her letter a request for the federal government to reimburse $512.5 million to the state over border security-related costs including “migrant transportation, drug interdiction, and law enforcement.”

Hobbs told reporters on Friday morning that she plans to visit the southern border on Saturday. The port of entry, which is the popular access point for tourists to visit Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, closed on Monday due to Customs and Border Protection saying they do not have enough capacity to keep it open and process migrants crossing illegally. The decision sparked bipartisan outrage and calls from Republican lawmakers to deploy the National Guard.

Hobbs has stopped short of sending troops in her own right, saying earlier this week that it is not something that officials in the area have requested.

However, her office announced Friday the creation of Operation SECURE (Safety, Enforcement, Coordination, & Uniform Response), which uses $2 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to support border security efforts. The news release added that the state will spend up to $5 million on the National Guard “unless the Biden Administration promptly reopens the port of entry.”

“With the launch of Operation SECURE, the State of Arizona is doing everything we can to secure the border, but we are at a breaking point. We need the federal government to step up, do its job, and bring security and order to our border,” she said in the news release.

“We’re absolutely looking at that as an option, but it’s not something that would be helpful right now, and it’s not something that law enforcement are asking for,” she said.

The Center Square reported that she talked with Department of Homeland Security Acting Deputy Secretary Kristie Canegallo last week, but she has not spoken with Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas since September.

According to sector Chief Patrol Agent John Modlin, 17,500 migrants were apprehended in the Tucson Sector last week.

Republished with the permission of The Center Square.