Thousands of migrants could be released en masse onto the streets in days, causing chaos in southern border communities as support funding dries up, say officials.

Local governments and nonprofits in the region have long worked with U.S. border officials to take migrants to sites such as Casa Alitas, a Catholic-run shelter for migrant families in Tucson, Arizona, or the Regional Center for Border Health in Yuma.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disburses funds from the Shelter and Services Program to entities providing shelter, food, transportation, and support to people who have been processed and released from custody while awaiting the outcome of immigration proceedings. But that federal funding will run out on March 31.


Immigration is promising to be a top issue ahead of this year’s presidential election, as both presumed nominees blame each other for the worsening situation.

President Joe Biden and his Democrats have condemned Republicans for tanking a bipartisan border bill that sought to tamp down the number of illegal crossings at the southern border. Donald Trump and the GOP have held Biden’s immigration policies responsible for the record number of crossings.

Newsweek has emailed both the Trump and Biden campaigns for comment. The migrant releases and reduction in adequate shelter will sow more disorder at the border, said Diego Piña Lopez, the executive director of Pima County’s Casa Alitas—which is expected to stop most operations soon due to lack of federal funding and local dollars available to subsidize legally processed asylum seekers released by Border Patrol.

“I think that’s going to lead to a lot of chaos, and a lot more cost across the board for folks to get services, as many of the people coming through leave fairly quickly here,” Piña Lopez told The Arizona Republic.

Pima County Administrator Jan Lesher said the county cannot afford the roughly $1 million per week that previously would have been covered by federal funds to keep migrants off the streets in border communities.