Posted on December 21, 2023

Migrant Travelers Flood Tucson International Airport

Ashley Bowerman, KOLD, December 19, 2023

The busy holiday travel season at the Tucson International Airport is colliding with a surge in migrants at the border.

As many as 3,000 migrants are crossing into Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector every day and, as a result, the airport is seeing an increase in migrant passengers.

“The reality is the numbers have increased,” said Austin Wright, TIA Chief Communications Officer.

It’s a trend the airport says they’ve seen since Title 42 ended in May. But Wright says these are ticketed passengers, just like anyone else.

“These are still the same the number of flights operating. The same number of seats. So it’s really business as usual at the airport,” Wright said.

13 News spoke with travelers who had different opinions about the increase. Some were unbothered by it.

“I have friends that it bothers, but overall I haven’t noticed a whole lot,” said Darci Trimmer from Green Valley.

Others were troubled with the country’s plan to house all of these people, but said they understood why they are here.

“It just would concern me with what’s going on in our world,” said Mike Kolesar from Sacramento.

“They’re just people that are, you know, to me, are mostly in a bad situation,” said traveler Benny Ellis. “I mean they’re not just coming here to commit crime, they’re coming here for the American dream.”


In Pima County, the majority of migrants who are not held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the border will either be released onto the street, or bused to Casa Alitas – a temporary shelter in Tucson that is primarily funded by the federal government.

”These last several months have been the busiest that we’ve had on record of people we’ve been serving,” said Casa Alitas Director Diego Piña Lopez.