Migrant families in the Yuma area. Courtesy Border Patrol

The mayor of Yuma declared a state of emergency, saying hundreds of Central American migrant families released by the Border Patrol are overwhelming the small Arizona city’s nonprofit shelters.

Mayor Douglas Nicholls said nearly 1,300 migrant family members have been released by the Border Patrol to the local shelter system in the last three weeks.

“Migrants continue to be released at a rate that cannot be sustained, overwhelming the current nonprofit shelter system,” Nicholls said on Tuesday.

Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls

He said that while migrants are quickly sent to live with family or friends elsewhere in the United States, the shelter system in Yuma operated by the Salvation Army can only handle 150 to 200 people at a time.

The proclamation was signed in an attempt to get federal help and “avert hundreds of asylum-seeking migrants from being left without resources and potentially out in the greater community,” Nichols said.

Yuma, which is located on the Mexican border about 175 miles from San Diego, has a population of 95,000.

The Border Patrol in the Yuma Sector announced March 28 that it had begun releasing families on their own recognizance.

“Due to capacity issues at our stations and the ongoing humanitarian crisis nationwide, Border Patrol has begun identifying detainees for potential release in Yuma with a notice to appear for their immigration hearings,” the agency said in a statement.

The Border Patrol began releasing migrants in the San Diego area last November. A similar nonprofit shelter system, spearheaded by Jewish Family Service of San Diego, was set up and has been augmented by state funds.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.