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Katie Hobbs to bus more migrants north.
Katie Hobbs to bus more migrants north. Photo: Jon Cherry/Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs to continue Doug Ducey’s migrant bus policy

The new Democratic Governor held a press conference announcing its expansion with some changes.

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If anyone was wondering if electing a Democratic governor in Arizona would mean the end of busing migrants north — a policy of former Republican governor Doug Ducey  —  you would be wrong. 

On Friday, Jan. 20, newly-inaugurated Gov. Katie Hobbs held a press conference regarding the creation of a Death Penalty Independent Review Commissioner established by an executive order signed by Hobbs that same Friday. She announced that her office will review how the death penalty is carried out by the state Department of Corrections. 

However, when talking to reporters in her over 16-minute conference, Hobbs talked about the migrant transportation practice done under her predecessor, Ducey. 

She criticized the program under the former GOP leader, but defended its cost, and revealed it would continue with some modifications. 

“We need to look at that practice and make sure that it’s effective, [that] it’s something that supports local communities. If we’re spending the money to bus people, why not just get them to their final destination?” Hobbs told reporters. 

Ducey’s practice first began in May 2022, a policy of busing north migrants released by federal authorities in border communities. He, along with fellow GOP governors Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida each had their own transportation scheme. 

However, Ducey’s policy was different from DeSantis and Abbott in that the state coordinated drop-offs with local jurisdictions and at least one nongovernmental organization, and migrants were informed of their final destination before boarding under Ducey. 

And now under Hobbs, it will be buses and planes. 

The Hobbs administration signed a contract on Jan. 13, renewing the practice and adding in the option of using flights. Using the same vendor as before, AMI Expeditionary Healthcare, it will allow the vendor to use air transportation.

AMI can provide flights on their 737 aircraft to a designated location approved by the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs. It can support up to 150 immigrants plus support staff and will charter one flight per month if requested by AZDEMA. Immigrants on the flight would be provided with “at least one meal.”

“I think it's something that provides support to those local communities [along the border],” Hobbs said. “If we’re spending money to bus people, why not just get them to their final destination?”

However, what is missing is the contract's worth. Under the Ducey Administration, it cost taxpayers anywhere from $73,000 to $82,000 per trip. Hobbs’ contract does not list a price, but the administration says prices will be “equal to or better than the lowest prices.”

As for why this is the case, Hobbs told the Arizona Republic in an exclusive interview that it was over humanitarian concerns and cost efficiency. 

"We just wanted to make sure that we were addressing this issue and, as I talked about many times in the campaign, in a way that was the best use of taxpayer resources and something that wasn't a political stunt," Hobbs said in the exclusive interview on Tuesday.

"We wanted to make sure that we were getting these folks transported in a way that was efficient and humane, and actually provided relief to the communities on the border that have the influx of these asylum seekers and don't have the resources to help them."

Less than three weeks into Hobb’s tenure, no flights have gone out, but three buses carrying 102 people have departed the state so far, according to the Governor's Office. Under Ducey, over 3,177 people were transported on 89 buses, according to figures released by the Governor's Office, which totaled over $7 million spent.

Aides to the governor have said flights would give the state a solution to the influx of asylum seekers, and result in less cost since the trip is now hours as opposed to days, hours versus days, and would result in requiring less meals and medical support.

Hobbs told the Arizona Republic that DeSantis’ and Abbott’s particular policies are different from hers as they have been accused of human trafficking with their policies while Hobbs’ policy is more centered on the humanitarian angle. 

"We're interested in focusing on the humanitarian aspects of this and just putting people on a bus as a political stunt and sending them to Martha's Vineyard or wherever they went is not providing any help or any solution to the actual issue. And we're focused on how we provide support and help in these communities and to these folks who are legitimate asylum seekers," she said.

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