Buses sending asylum seekers from Arizona to Washington, DC cost $80K per trip

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — A program that sends asylum seekers on charter buses from the Arizona-Mexico border to Washington, DC has cost the State of Arizona an estimated $3 million in its three months of operation.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey started the program in May, sending asylum seekers from Arizona to the nation’s capital. The Governor’s office said all those who are on the bus trips are going voluntarily and have an intended destination of the East Coast.

State officials said the buses are needed to help border counties. “The number of migrants coming across the border are overwhelming the system,” said Tim Roemer, Arizona’s Homeland Security Director.

According to a contract with AMI Expeditionary Healthcare LLC, the State of Arizona pays $82,146 per bus. Those costs include the rental of the bus along with two Paramedic/EMTs per bus and multiple drivers on board. The company also provides three meals daily to asylum-seekers on the trip.

The contract with AMI stated they would provide two to three buses to Arizona per week. According to Ducey’s office, buses have made 37 trips, taking 1,384 asylum seekers to DC That equates to the state paying approximately $2,200 per asylum seeker.

While the program has a steep cost, the Ducey Administration still says a bill will be sent to the Biden Administration. They said whatever cost is incurred in the bus program alleviates costs put on border counties supporting the asylum-seekers if they were to stay in Arizona. The Governor’s office previously told Arizona’s Family the program is being funded initially by the State Border Security Fund.

The majority of those seeking the trips are asylum-seekers from Colombia (57%), Peru (16%) and Venezuela (12%), according to figures provided by Gov. Ducey’s office. The Governor’s office said while the asylum-seekers are being dropped off in Washington, DC, their final destinations are in states such as New York (27%), New Jersey (20%) and Florida (20%).

Arizona is not the only border state sending asylum seekers away from the border. A month before Arizona, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott started sending asylum seekers to Washington, DC On August 5, Abbott announced Texas would also send migrants to New York City.

Between the two border states, Washington DC has received thousands of migrants, prompting the city’s Mayor Muriel Bowser to ask the US Department of Defense for help from the National Guard to assist with arriving migrants. However, the Pentagon denied the request from the DC Mayor, according to a CNN report.

The program is also drawing criticism from Republicans. Republican nominee for Arizona Governor Kari Lake was part of a panel at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference in Dallas. She said she is not a fan of the busing program.

“It makes for a cute photo op, but it just takes people who shouldn’t be here and moves them further in,” Lake said. “I think we should bring the buses, drive them to the border and send them back the other way.”

The Biden Administration has called the busing programs by Arizona and Texas a “publicity stunt.” Roemer disagrees with that assessment. “It’s not [a stunt],” he said. “It’s a small price in the totality of the circumstance. The price our communities are paying on the border and the cost to all Arizonans.”

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