Tucson to aid refugee children from Central America

The local Tucson community is rallying to aid the refugee children from Central America who are being brought here by immigration officials in an humanitarian crisis. (h/t photo: The Arizona Republic).

The children who are coming from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are suffering from gang and drug violence, and from a depressed economy. The Arizona Daily Star reports, Bishop Kicanas, other leaders plan aid for immigrant women, children:

RefugeeChildrenBishop Gerald F. Kicanas of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson met with community leaders and local and federal officials Friday to plan for humanitarian aid for immigrant women and children being dropped off at the bus station downtown.

The Department of Homeland Security began dropping off several hundred immigrants a week at the Tucson Greyhound station for about three weeks, expecting them to find their own way to cities across the country to report to immigration offices there.

Large numbers of mostly Central Americans and families from Mexico are being apprehended in south Texas in the Rio Grande Valley and being flown to bus stations in Tucson and Phoenix because federal officials cannot handle the influx of immigrants in Texas for processing.

“About 80 women and their children a day continue being dropped off (at the Greyhound bus station), and Casa Mariposa provides shelter for some families and temporary housing, but they are overwhelmed now,” said Kicanas of the volunteers who advocate for immigrants.

“Transitional housing is needed for those who can’t leave right away. We need to provide hospitality, clothing and food. We need to advocate for them,” said Kicanas, adding that the Tucson community has opened its arms to refugees and immigrants who are in need in past years.

Kicanas said most of the immigrants receive money from relatives quickly and they buy bus tickets and leave. Others need money for bus tickets and a place to stay, he said, adding that they are “penniless, hungry, dehydrated and without adequate clothing.”

City Councilwoman Regina Romero, who attended the meeting, said she is working with the city’s staff to provide a list of city-funded emergency shelters that can take in women and children.

The list will be provided to immigration officials and Greyhound officials.

The bishop said the influx of unaccompanied children who are being processed at a Border Patrol warehouse in Nogales also was discussed. More than 1,000 teens, young mothers and their children have been shipped to the facility for processing since last week.

The children are expected to be sent to other federal facilities across the country, and federal authorities are also looking at opening a shelter in Tucson for them.

Kicanas said U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, who attended the meeting, will work with officials to determine what humanitarian aid the Tucson community can provide for the children in the Nogales facility within federal regulations.

Among the concerns, said Kicanas, were food, legal representation, pastoral care and attention to the children’s emotional needs.

Some of the hundreds of immigrant children being warehoused in Nogales will soon arrive in Tucson. KOLD 13 reports, Tucson opens door to immigrant children:

City planners granted a waiver of zoning rules to allow the children to be housed at College Place on Oracle Road.

But it took a while.

“Our planning department went from yes to no to yes temporarily in three days,” says Ward VI city council member Steve Kozachik. “We finally have it, good.”

When they will arrive and how many are still unknowns but it has been described as soon.

“This is a humanitarian emergency,” says Ward I council member Regina Romero. “It is imperative as a city that we move swiftly.”

Workers from Southwest Key, a non profit agency from Texas which houses immigrant children, worked throughout the day to get the hotel ready for arrivals.’

The group stationed a guard at the front entrance to keep media off the property and refused to answer any questions.

Kozachik believes the military bases in Southern Arizona may be the answer.

“They’re like a small city with all the amenities,” he says.

He also suggested empty TUSD schools “but that’s only a temporary solution.”

The price tag is being picked up by the federal government.

“This isn’t costing us a penny to move fast,” says Romero. “The permits are being paid for by Southwest Key.”

Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik is calling on the mayor and city manager to implement Tucson’s emergency operations plan to address the growing problem of unaccompanied minors illegally crossing the border. Councilman asks for emergency declaration over recent border crossings:

“From all accounts the situation is going to continue,” Kozachik wrote in a press release. “Now is not the time for us to sit and wait in a reactive posture.”

By activating the emergency operations plan, the city could start lining up local, state and federal resources “before we lose the ability to effectively deal with local conditions in a humane manner,” Kozachik wrote.

He said the city should consider declaring an emergency “to attract the proper level of involvement from the state and federal government.”

Councilman Steve Kozachik’s press release:

The State of Arizona has become the destination for hundreds of unaccompanied minors from across Central America. Within the past week, it became an issue with local impact for the City of Tucsonand Pima County.

From all accounts the situation is going to continue.Now is not the time for us to sit and wait in a reactive posture.

I applaud Bishop Kicanas, Supervisor Elias and Council Member Romero for their efforts to get ahead of the issue and work with local and Federal agencies to address the needs that already exist in our community. Their work points us as a region in the right direction.

At our most recent City Council meeting we adopted the City of Tucson Emergency Operations Plan. That plan provides the ramework
for a coordinated response before , during and after an emergency
that affects the City of Tucson. It catalyzes City of Tucson interaction with Regional, State and Federal agencies, as well as with Non-Governmental Organizations. The intent of the Plan is to coordinate a response through the effective combination of resources that each agency can bring to bear on the emergency.

It’s time for the Mayor and City Manager to activate the Emergency Operations Response team and begin proper coordination of Local, Regional, State and Federal assets before we lose the ability to effectively deal with local conditions in a humane manner. That team should seriously weigh the option of a Mayoral Declaration of Emergency to be forwarded to the Pima County Office of Emergency Management if it concludes that is needed to attract the proper level of involvement from the State and Federal Government.

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