Miracle on 31st Street: They want us to 'ask for papers' from children getting toys
Reporter: Claire Doan
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – They’re known for bringing Christmas joy to low-income kids – but right now, two respected Tucson charities are engaged in some October bickering. And at the center of it? Illegal immigration.
Organizers of Miracle on 31st Street said if one-well known charity – Toys for Tots – gets its way, Santa will have to ask for your papers.
For years, Miracle on 31st Street has been serving kids in disadvantaged neighborhoods in Tucson. Every year it asks Toys for Tots for help.
Even in a good year, there are only so many toys to go around. So the Marine Corps asks families to apply and provide proof of income. But organizers of Miracle on 31st Street claim the Marines also want to do something else: screen out children of undocumented immigrants.
“We got a phone call about a couple of weeks ago and they’ve asked us for papers, or if you’re legal in the states, for income, stuff like that from parents,” said Armando Duarte, the Vice President of Miracle on 31st Street.
Duarte told 9 On Your Side that call from someone at Toys for Tots, in response to this year’s request for 25,000 toys. He contacted KGUN9 News for help.
“They told us maybe some of the toys they felt were going to Mexico or some of the people at the event were illegal citizens,” Duarte said.
A Marines sergeant and the local organizer of Toys for Tots said this situation is the result of miscommunication, that the foundation does not verify status and only focuses on giving toys to children in need.
Guidelines on the Toys for Tots website requires charities to ask for documentation from recipients “to assure qualifying standards are met.” It also spells out what applicants who want toys must show: birth certificates, social security cards or all household members if possible, along with some proof of residence.
The site also mentions an official photo ID such as a driver’s license, state ID or passport, but does not specify that it has to be a U.S. passport. Furthermore, while the site suggests social security cards, it does not say the foundation will turn away people who don’t have one.
“I don’t see myself doing that, asking a kid if he’s had his papers on him,” Duarte said. “Every year it’s always an obstacle that’s put in our way. This one seems to be the biggest we’ve had in the 42 years we’ve been doing this.”
The organizer for Toys for Tots said he will talk on Friday, but declined an interview for the Wednesday story and did not want to provide a written statement.
Duarte said he’s placed several calls to Toys for Tots and is waiting for an answer, but he’s not optimistic.