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'Humanitarian crisis': Yuma declares local emergency amid migrant surge at Mexico border

The mayor of Yuma has declared a local emergency because of the large number of migrants illegally crossing the border.

Mayor Douglas Nicholls called the surge a "humanitarian crisis," saying that 6,000 migrants have crossed into the city from Mexico.

"That was a dramatic change from anything we have seen in the last several years," said Nicholls.

Border officials, meanwhile, say migrant encounters have increased by 2,467% since Oct. 1. The surge, some say, was putting a strain on the city.

"Migrants are traveling through Yuma during a time of great uncertainty about the COVID-19 virus, and without provisions for adequate food, water, shelter, transportation and medical care," city officials said in a statement. "This surge of migrants has and will continue to strain the ability of medical staff and local hospital resources to provide essential and necessary medical care."

Yuma city officials said the issue directly impacts the city's agriculture industry, as migrants are passing through fields growing crops.

"The encroachment on active production fields results in food safety concerns and the destruction of crops, which leads to significant economic loss and property damage in the farming community, loss of agriculture-related jobs, and a threat to the nation’s food security," officials said.

The emergency declaration enables the city to receive state and federal funding to help mitigate the impacts of the immigrant surge.

A big part of the problem, according to Nicholls, is that there is no barrier along the border near Yuma.

"We have 52 gates missing from the wall here, and seven miles of the wall not constructed. Those are the locations people are coming through," said Nicholls.

Nicholls says changes needed to be made, and Border Patrol needs more assistance.

"Because these numbers are so large, they end up dealing with immigration, and that compromises them to be able to do border security," said Nicholls.

Earlier this week, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said he plans to send more National Guard troops and additional resources to the border.

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