TUCSON, Ariz.- There's been a sudden surge of migrant families coming to shelters in Tucson and Yuma.
The jump began this weekend and charities are rushing to meet the demand.
Casa Alitas is a shelter Catholic Community Services runs for migrant families before they're ready to move on to live with families already in the U-S while they wait to learn if they'll be able to live in the U-S permanently
The organization usually has maybe forty or fifty people to shelter. As the weekend began, they saw Federal officials were releasing many more than usual---maybe close to seven hundred.
They are not from Mexico. Most are trying to escape violence in countries like Guatemala.
When the surge hit, Catholic Community Services simply ran out of space so it reached out to other religious organizations to help find other spots to house the migrant families.
Catholic Community Services CEP Peg Harmon says, “Friday morning was when we understood the scope of what the challenge was going to be so as last Friday morning, and we have a network of very, very helpful people in this community, very kind and generous people. And we started making phone calls both here locally and to some organizations nationally, again, once we realized that this would be well beyond our standard capability, that we have with the two little houses we offer."
Catholic Community Services says some of the problem may relate to the ability of Greyhound to find enough space on its buses to move the migrant families.
CCS is seeking donations to help care for the migrant families.
Asked to explain the large family releases, ICE-Immigration and Customs Enforcement responded with the following statement:
"After decades of inaction by Congress, the government remains severely constrained in its ability to detain and promptly remove families that have no legal basis to remain in the United States. As a result, family units (FAMU) continue to cross the border at high volumes and are likely to continue to do so, as they face no consequence for their actions. Prior to releasing a FAMU within the time allotted by judicial decisions interpreting the Flores Settlement Agreement, ICE reviews their post-release plan, including ensuring they have a means to reach a final destination within the United States. This is a time and resource intensive process that can delay the release of a FAMU by several days while ICE confirms bus routes, coordinates with NGOs, and communicates with family members. There is no requirement that this review be conducted, it is a self-imposed process instituted by ICE.
In light of the incredibly high volume of FAMUs presenting themselves along the Arizona border, ICE no longer has the capacity to conduct these reviews without risking violation of the Flores limitations on lengths of stay for minors in both CBP and ICE custody. To mitigate that risk, ICE began to curtail such reviews in Arizona beginning Sunday October 7.
ICE has alerted local and state officials and reached out to NGO partners in the area who are prepared to provide assistance with transportation and/or other services. The safety of those in ICE’s custody remains the agency’s highest priority, with special attention paid to vulnerable populations. Release determinations will continue to be made on a case by case basis."
-Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe, ICE Spokesperson