KGUN 9NewsBorder Watch


Asylum seekers celebrate the holidays in Tucson

"Casa Alitas" provides shelter to asylum seekers
Posted at 10:51 AM, Dec 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-26 16:55:39-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — Migrants looking for asylum in the United States may find security with a group right here in Tucson.

"Casa Alitas" is the first stop for people who hope to one day call the U.S. their new home.

It's a mission that's spanned several years.

"We've been working with supporting families seeking asylum since 2016," said Diego Javier Pena Lopez, Program Manager at Casa Alitas.

Giving shelter to migrants fleeing their home countries, but shelter isn't all they're hoping to offer at Casa Alitas.

There's a hint of holiday cheer even for those who are far from home.

"The holiday season has always been special to us, from starting at the house, getting Christmas trees being able to give families presents, to the last several years where we've been celebrating at motels," Lopez said.

"Setting up presents for each child that was in the motel staying with us, as well as people that were there for the Christmas season living in the motel."

Volunteers work to give a welcoming impression to these families, part of which includes a welcome distraction from the trials of their long trips.

Some from Eastern Europe, most from Central and South America.

"This is something special for the volunteers as well, we can all share and we can all work together to beautify this space for the holiday spirit," Lopez said.

"It's been really phenomenal for me to see the activities have come up with working for the kids to help them de-stress from the traumas they may have experienced through their journey's here and back home."

Some of these asylum seekers will work through the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement system, but for now they're settled at Casa Alitas.

"How do we spend the holiday season to make somebody's life better, you know to spread that joy?"

This facility was offered by Pima County, it was formally a juvenile detention center.

It's the generosity of others, Casa Alitas says allows them to serve people who are seeking asylum.

"That's what I love about our Tucson community, is the willingness to give, the willingness to share, the willingness to embrace other people."

A mission to help people yearning for freedom, by volunteers who show they have enough of it, and charity, to spare.

"We share in that human dignity, in that human bond to empower one another."