Faith community houses surge of migrant families

Coping with large releases by ICE

TUCSON, Ariz. - Local religious organizations are continuing a massive effort to house a surge of migrant families released from Federal custody.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began the releases this past weekend, saying it had so many families seeking asylum it had to release them to meet legal limits on how long children can be held.

By late morning Thursday, a government van had dropped off another group of adults and young children at a large shelter operation.

For security, we agreed not to show their faces or reveal their location.

Volunteers help to feed the families, supply donated clothes and set them up with a place to sleep.

It's a massive, speedy scale-up for organizations used to housing maybe forty people to deal with more than five hundred.

“Well, we understood that these large numbers are a function of the fact that people became kind of clogged up in the system with ICE and Customs and Border Protection," said Peg Harmon, CEO of Catholic Community Services. "And that this release now has been sort of releasing a valve and at once these releases are completed that we anticipate it'll go back to what we consider a more typical flow."

Catholic Community Services, the Interfaith Council, the ACLU and Tucson City Council Members have teamed up to gather volunteers and supplies.

Most of the people here are from Guatemala. They've asked for asylum in the US to escape violence there.

Peg Harmon remembers one woman who just gave birth in Tucson.

"And, you know, think about our young mom, she left very, very pregnant from a Central American country made this horrific journey and you wouldn't do that if you didn't feel like your life and the life of your baby, were being threatened."

When transportation can be arranged, the families will travel to stay with family members already in the U.S. They have papers from ICE that call them to court where a judge will decide if they'll be allowed to stay.

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