Migrant Influx Strains Arizona Children's Shelters

Published June 04, 2014


Children's shelters in Arizona are overflowing after the arrival of hundreds of Central American immigrants transferred from Texas, the epicenter of a massive arrival of undocumented children characterized by President Barack Obama as an "urgent humanitarian situation."

The Guatemalan Consulate in Phoenix said that this week it received 70 of its country's citizens who were released at the Greyhound bus station by U.S. immigration authorities.

The migrants were brought from Texas, where the children's shelters and detention centers are full due to the avalanche of undocumented Central Americans in recent months.

The situation is also being felt in shelters in Arizona, with the Phoenix centers already overcrowded with children who arrived alone in this country, Guatemalan Consul Jimena Diaz told Efe.

The number of children crossing the border alone has increased more than 90 percent compared with last year, Cecilia Mu├▒oz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said Monday in conjunction with Obama's presidential memorandum ordering "a unified and coordinated Federal response."

The number of unaccompanied children entering the United States could approach 66,000 this year, more than quadruple the number two years ago, according to unofficial estimates.

Diaz said she spoke with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and expressed to them her concern over the lack of security for mothers and children, many of whom are babies, when they are left at bus stations.

She said ICE officials assured her that this situation will prevail until Wednesday or Thursday and that then it will "normalize" and "women with children are going to be processed in Texas."

A recent report by the Border Patrol said that more than 100,000 undocumented Central Americans have been detained on the Texas border so far in fiscal year 2014, which began last Oct. 1, and that the majority of these detentions were of minors.

"If we have a situation where the two parents are coming we ask that the decision be made who will go with the child and who will remain in detention" to be turned over to ICE, Andy Adame, the spokesman for the Border Patrol in Arizona, told Efe.

Meanwhile, activists and community organizations are offering advice and assistance to these immigrant families who are released at Arizona bus stations. One of the organizations is Casa Mariposa in Tucson, which is offering them lodging and food.

"We are helping them understand the situation and the trip. These people don't know anyone here and everything is new for them," Kristina Schlaback, a volunteer at Casa Mariposa, told Efe. 

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