Buses that bring asylum seekers from Arizona to Washington, DC cost $80,000 each way


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

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey launched the program in May, sending Arizona asylum seekers to the state’s capital. The governor’s office said all those taking part in the bus trips are going voluntarily and have an intended destination on the east coast.

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

Under a contract with AMI Expeditionary Healthcare LLC, the state of Arizona will pay $82,146 per bus. This cost includes the rental of the bus along with two paramedics/EMTs per bus and multiple drivers on board. The company also offers three meals a day to the asylum seekers on the journey.

The contract with AMI stipulated that they would ship two to three buses a week to Arizona. Buses have made 37 trips, bringing 1,384 asylum seekers to DC, according to Ducey’s office. That equates to a government payment of about $2,200 per asylum seeker.

Despite the program’s high cost, the Ducey administration still says a bill will be sent to the Biden administration. They said any costs incurred in the bus program reduce the costs imposed on border counties to support asylum seekers if they stayed in Arizona. The governor’s office previously told Arizona’s family that the program will initially be funded by the State Border Security Fund.

The majority of those requesting the trips are asylum seekers from Colombia (57%), Peru (16%) and Venezuela (12%), according to figures from Gov. Ducey’s office. The governor’s office said while the asylum seekers would be dropped off in Washington, DC, their final destinations were in states like New York (27%), New Jersey (20%) and Florida (20%).

Arizona isn’t the only border state turning asylum seekers off the border. A month before Arizona, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott began sending asylum seekers to Washington, DC. On August 5, Abbott announced that Texas would also send migrants to New York City.

Between the two border states, Washington DC has been taking in 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, according to a CNN report, the Pentagon denied the DC mayor‘s request.

The program has also met with 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 bus program.

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

The Biden administration has called the Arizona and Texas bus programs a “publicity stunt.” Römer disagrees with this assessment. “It is not [a stunt],” he said. “It’s a small price to pay in the aggregate of circumstances. The price our communities pay at the border and the cost to all Arizona residents.”


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