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 Number of child immigrants at border declining
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6 months ago

Number of child immigrants at border declining

WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of immigrant children caught alone illegally crossing the Mexican border into the United States is continuing to drop.

Officials of the Customs and Border Protection agency, a part of the Homeland Security Department, say agents apprehended 3,129 unaccompanied child immigrants in August. In July, agents found more than 5,400 children. Homeland Security said that in June, agents were finding more than 2,000 children a week.

Since Oct. 1 more than 66,000 unaccompanied children have been found crossing the border illegally. Most are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

The crush of Central American children found crossing the border caught the Obama administration off guard earlier this year and strained Homeland Security's resources. President Barack Obama has called the situation a humanitarian crisis

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8 months ago

Central American presidents visit White House

Three Central American Presidents are in Washington today, blaming the U.S. for the recent influx of children crossing the border without their parents.

Congress is in gridlock over how to deal with the growing crisis on the southern border, and it's not looking like they'll get anything done before heading out on a month long break next week.

The Obama Administration is looking at a new plan: 2,000 visas for refugees from Honduras, but that won't address 112,000 parents and children already here who've crossed the border from Central America this year.

Read more: http://nbcnews.to/1rF8FHQ

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8 months ago

Protests continue in Oracle over migrant children shelter

ORACLE, Ariz. - Protesters camped out near a former boys' school which currently has plans to temporarily house roughly 40 Central American children.

Earlier this week, hundreds of protesters on both sides of the debate took to the streets near a planned temporary shelter for migrant children. A much more modest group of protesters set up along the road on Saturday in opposition of the plan.

"I've got a group of loyal supporters here. We have the right under the constitution of peaceful assembly and that's exactly what we're doing... we're not trying to pick a fight with anybody," said Robert Skiba, an Oracle resident who is critical of the federal government's handling of the crisis. His biggest concern is that the feds have kept tight-lipped about the plans to house roughly 40 migrant children at the site.

"Nobody is talking to us. We don't' know if these kids are going to school in Oracle," Skiba said, adding: "My government owes the people of Oracle the opportunity to sit down and discuss in a very reasonable way what is happening."

Oracle is a small, tight-knit community but stands divided on the issue.

There's even a "campaign of hearts" embraced by many in the community to welcome the children.

"It's a complex issue. We've got security issues versus humanitarian issues," said Michael Moore, an Oracle resident. "Congress had better get off their rear end and do something about it."

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8 months ago

Central American leaders to meet with Obama

WASHINGTON (AP) - The presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras will come to Washington next week to discuss the surge of unaccompanied minors from their countries across the U.S border.

The White House says Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, and El Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Ceren will meet with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on Friday.

The U.S. has been urging their governments to take steps to stem the exodus of children and warning that the U.S. will take steps to send them back promptly.

An Obama request to Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency spending contains $300 million to help the Central American government repatriate and reintegrate migrants that are sent back.

8 months ago

Number of migrant kids sent to Nogales dwindles

NOGALES, AZ (AP) - Immigrant children caught crossing the Mexican border into Texas illegally and alone are no longer being sent to a massive Nogales facility.

The steep fall in the number of child border crossers means the U.S. Border Patrol in Texas no longer needs to send the minors to Arizona. More than 57,000 children have been arrested since October.

Nogales, a small city that borders with Mexico, at one point last month had over 1,000 children who had been flown and bused in from south Texas after border agents there became overwhelmed with the surge in crossings. There are now only about 200 children being detained in the 120,000-square-foot warehouse.

It is unlikely, with the opening of a new processing facility in McAllen, Texas, that children will be sent to Nogales at all anymore. A high-ranking Border Patrol official says the location is being phased out as the agency gets a better handle on the problem.

"They're starting to ramp that down. ... As I understand it Nogales is probably going to wind down here within the next day to a week," Rio Grande Valley sector Chief Kevin Oaks told The Associated Press.

The McAllen facility is scheduled to open Friday and will temporarily house as many as 1,000 children until they are turned over to the federal Health and Human Services Department, which finds shelters for them before they are reunited with relatives and their immigration proceedings begin.

The federal government came under fire last month when it began sending the children to a state with its own long-standing illegal immigration battles.

Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, demanded the policy be halted. Others threatened legal action.

The governor believes ending the flow of immigrant children would be a "welcome development," wrote Andrew Wilder, Brewer's spokesman, in an email to the Associated Press on Thursday. However, he wrote, they are skeptical and will wait to see what pans out.

When word spread that 40 or so Central American migrant children would be sent to an academy for troubled youths in Oracle, residents staged a protest and planned on blocking the bus carrying the children.

The protest became tense after supporters of the immigrant children visited the opposing camp. Loud arguments ensued. In a moment of confusion, the anti-illegal immigration protesters temporarily blocked a school bus carrying children from the YMCA that they believed was transporting the migrant children.


Associated Press Writer Chris Sherman contributed to this report from McAllen Texas.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

8 months ago

Donations being collected for Oracle shelter for migrant kids

The Libre Initiative, a conservative group reaching out to Latinos, is collecting donations for the Oracle shelter that will house child migrants. Here are some of the needs:

-Spanish-to-English flash cards
-Children's books
-Coloring books
-Crayons, pencils, pens, markers
-Art supplies (paints, paper)
-Personal items like blanket, stuffed animal or toy

You can send donations here:
LIBRE Initiative
Vida Nueva -New Life Church
5245 S. 12th Ave, Tucson, Arizona

Drop off donations Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. until Friday, July 25.

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8 months ago

Migrant families to spend less time at Tucson Greyhound station

TUCSON - Thirty Central American migrants are dropped off at the Tucson Greyhound bus station every day. All of these people were caught trying to enter the country through Arizona.

They're sent to the bus stop by DHS, eventually traveling to meet up with family members around the county. But first, they spend hours, or even days, waiting for a ride.

Around one Thursday afternoon, three mothers arrived at the station, each traveling with a toddler. All of them were from Guatemala.

In this particular group, one of the babies wasn't feeling well. Tucson college student Adrian Amado stepped in to help, but also to listen.

"When they are telling their stories, you can feel that sadness, you can feel the feeling that they're transmitting to you. And it's something really powerful," said Amado.

When the families get to the bus stop, it can be a bit of a shock. Mike Gutierrez, with Catholic Community Services, said, "A lot of stimulus in here for people just coming out of that detention center."

For more than a month, volunteers working under the name 'Project Mariposa' have been trying to open a new intake center with more privacy just for migrant families.

"It really is just a little bit larger of a space for the women, something that is a little bit more enclosed so that they have a little bit more comfortable feeling," says Sabrina Lopez, who has been helping organize volunteers.

They'll spend time waiting for their bus there instead. The exact location is being kept a secret. It is set to open August 1st, and will be operated by Catholic Community Services.

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8 months ago

No additional migrant kids being sent to Nogales

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - The Border Patrol has stopped sending unaccompanied immigrant children caught crossing the Mexican border into Texas illegally to a processing center in Nogales, Arizona.

The massive warehouse where more than 1,000 migrant children once stayed now only has about 200 kids.

Border patrol officials are reporting far fewer children crossers in the past few days than the agency has seen in the past two months.

More than 57,000 children have crossed the border alone since October, creating what many called a humanitarian crisis and sparking a national debate about how to handle the situation.

In south Texas, only about 80 unaccompanied minors were detained Wednesday, compared to 200 to 300 arrests daily at the height of the surge.

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8 months ago

Most unaccompanied migrant children reunited with family in the U.S.

TUCSON - Nearly 60,000 Central American children have entered the U.S. since late last year. News 4 Tucson recently learned most of them have already been reunited with family members to await trial in immigration court.

Before the number of migrant children coming into the U.S. spiked, the Department of Health and Human Services was already operating 100 permanent facilities, shelters, like the one here in Tucson.

When asked about that location, Kenneth Wolfe, an HHS spokesperson, responded, "We do not identify regular/permanent Unaccompanied Alien Children program facilities, for the safety and security of minors and staff at the shelters."

But he did share, there are currently more than 6,000 children dispersed among those 100 shelters.

Since last October, nearly 45,000 children have gone through the system. HHS says 96 percent of them have been placed with a sponsor, who is typically a family member or guardian.

There is no requirement for these sponsors to be U.S. citizens. But all of them receive background checks before they can pick up a child from a shelter.

The other four percent remain in federal care until they go before an immigration judge. That judge can send them back to their home countries or offer some kind of other legal relief.

Just because a child is placed with a sponsor doesn't mean they're here to stay. The sponsor is supposed to make sure the minor attends all legal hearings and follows through with deportation orders if issued by an immigration judge.

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8 months ago

Reporter Jose Vargas released from Border Patrol custody

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas was detained at a Texas airport Tuesday morning, his spokesman said.

Vargas was held at a detention center at the airport in McAllen, Texas, after he tried to fly out of the border city, his spokesman Ryan Eller said. Information on why he was detained wasn't immediately available.

Vargas' grandfather brought him to the United States from the Philippines illegally when he was 12 years old. Vargas says he didn't know he was in the country illegally until he was 16, when he applied for a driver's license and was told his permanent residency card was bogus.

Read more: http://bit.ly/1jxHo7f

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8 months ago

Immigrants posing as "fake families" to stay in the U.S.

The influx of unaccompanied immigrant children crossing the border may be triggering yet another problem for Border Patrol agents--fake family units.

Although there are no official numbers available, there are reports of unaccompanied immigrant children being approached by adult immigrants and told to pose as a family in order to have a better chance of staying in the U.S.

Border Patrol does have a screening process for immigrant family units, but the Border Patrol lacks adequate man power and resources to thoroughly process the current overwhelming number of undocumented immigrants.

Just like the overall issue of illegal border crossings, fake family units not only raise concern from a legal standpoint, but also as a humanitarian issue.

Read more: http://bit.ly/1qcBqMb

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8 months ago

Hundreds of protesters and supporters of migrant children rallying in Oracle

ORACLE- Hundreds of protesters and supporters of migrant children are in Oracle Tuesday morning, waiting for the arrival of a bus believed to be transporting 40 to 60 children to the Sycamore Canyon Boys Ranch.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu is anticipating between 500 and 700 people on both sides of the issue to gather in Oracle Tuesday.

Stay with News 4 Tucson online and on-air throughout the day for updates on this developing story.

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8 months ago

Sheriff Babeu prepares for demonstrators, as migrant kids arrive in Oracle

SADDLEBROOKE - Sheriff Paul Babeu met with residents in Saddlebrooke on Monday night. The topic that took center stage was the transfer of migrant children to Oracle, Arizona.

The town hall was both a political rally and public hearing on immigration.

About 200 people filled the Desert View Theater in the retirement community of Saddlebrooke.

The majority in attendance are against the arrival of migrant children in neighboring communities.

Resident Carla Ward asked, "How are we going to take care of them? Everybody is struggling, we just need to know how are we going to take care of these people."

Sheriff Babeu says he understands their concerns. His office only recently learned of plans to bring 40 to 60 refugee kids to Sycamore Canyon Boys Ranch in Oracle.

"We've been asking a lot of questions about the facility and the parent company," said Babeu.

He has reached out to Homeland Security expressing public safety and health concerns. But overall Babeu told the audience that he feels like he's being kept in the dark.

Babeu has confirmed the facility has increased staff by 30 people in anticipation of the kid's arrival. "We will not let up, that's our job to provide public safety to the families that are there," he said.

Area resident Harvey Ward said, "I definitely have concerns because they're not all just children, like news says. Obviously there's young adults not just here for a better life, they're involved in criminal activity and they're going to bring that into the community."

Sheriff Babeu is anticipating between 500 and 700 people on both sides of the issue to gather in Oracle, on Tuesday.

Pinal County Sheriff's deputies will begin staging at six Tuesday morning to help keep the peace.

It's not known what time the bus of children might be arriving. Oracle residents plan to stage a protest and block Department of Homeland Security vehicles from traveling to the academy.

Meantime, several local political groups are planning to wear white and line the road to Oracle, welcoming the migrant children. They'll be meeting at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday at the Oracle Post Office.

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8 months ago

Groups planning "welcoming" rally for migrant kids

ORACLE - Several local political groups are planning to wear white and line the road to the town of Oracle to welcome about 40 migrant children expected to arrive here Tuesday. The effort is in response to other groups planning to protest the arrival of the kids.

The children from Central America are in need of a place to stay while their families are contacted and their cases make their way through the Immigration Court system. The children walked across the border along with thousands of other kids in recent months.

The children will stay at Sycamore Canyon Academy, a boys ranch operated by Rite of Passage on Mount Lemmon Highway.

The groups planning to welcome the children are planning to meet at 6:30 a.m. at the Oracle Post Office.

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8 months ago

Protest planned in Oracle over arrival of migrant kids

ORACLE - Where the pavement ends on Mount Lemmon Highway is where Oracle residents plan to stage a protest Tuesday morning.

Much like the residents of Murrieta, California, when people of Oracle received word that 40 unaccompanied migrant children would be transferred to their town, they decided they would show their disapproval with a protest.

Rodger Skiba is one of the men organizing the rally. He spent Monday afternoon preparing for what could be an early morning, and a long afternoon.

No one is entirely sure what time the bus of children might be arriving, but when they do, Skiba's plan is to block Department of Homeland Security vehicles from traveling down the winding gravel road to the facility.

The location, called Sycamore Canyon Academy, is a boys ranch operated by Rite of Passage.

DHS says this will only be a temporary placement until the office of refugee resettlement can find a more permanent facility for the children.

Sycamore Canyon Academy says its mission is to improve the lives of youth, not debate a position on immigration.

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8 months ago

Immigrant Crisis: Obama's plan hits roadblocks

President Obama's plan to end the immigration crisis is facing a major roadblocks in Congress.

Republicans have said his request for $3.7-billion in emergency funds is "too much".

Another issue is hearings: Should every one of the children flooding in from Central America get their day in court or be sent straight home?

The often lengthy hearing process that Central Americans are entitled to is a result of a 2008 law. Many never show up and stay in the United States.

Republicans like John McCain are demanding the law be repealed and the kids sent home to send a message.

"The only way that this is going to stop is if plane loads of children arrive back in the countries in Central America that they came from and their parents see the $3, 4-5-6-7,000 that they've paid to the human traffickers is wasted," McCain says.

Many Democrats reject that, passionately.

They say individual hearings ensure that children in danger back home can stay in the United States.

Read more: http://nbcnews.to/1qRvKoM

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8 months ago

Obama administration tries to rally governors' support in border crisis

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell has met privately with dozens of governors today, trying to rally support from the states that will host thousands of immigrant children from Central America.

Governors of both parties attending the National Governors Association meeting in Nashville expressed concerns about the costs to the states, according to people who were there.

Burwell left the meeting without talking to reporters.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, says already burdened citizens "don't want to see another burden come into their state." He says the humanitarian aspects of the border crisis must be dealt with "in the most cost-effective way possible."

Republican Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Chris Christie of New Jersey and Terry Branstad of Iowa criticized the administration's plans to place the children with friends or family members without checking on their immigration status.

Under current law, immigrant children who enter the United States by themselves from countries that don't border the U.S. are turned over to HHS. They often are placed with relatives already living in the country while they wait for an immigration court to decide their future. The court process can take years.

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8 months ago

Homeland Security: Funds an 'absolute necessity' to address border crisis

The Obama Administration says it'll soon run out of money to deal with the crisis of children at the border unless lawmakers act quickly.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson heads to the border today. He'll be visiting a New Mexico detention center and meeting Texas officials after his two-day trip to Guatemala.

In between, he came back to Washington Thursday to tell lawmakers that immigration and border officials will run out of money starting next month.

"We're going to have to go to some very dramatic, harsh form of reprogramming," said the Homeland Security.

Lawmakers are working a deal to grant President Obama's $3.7 billion emergency request in exchange for allowing the government more flexibility to quickly deport children from Central America, and possibly put ankle bracelets on some immigrants here to ensure they show up for court.

Read more: http://nbcnews.to/1s2jVOn

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8 months ago

Texas officials tour school as possible shelter for migrant kids

As officials from three government agencies toured a vacant Houston, Texas middle school, residents from the surrounding neighborhood showed up to express their anger.

The Houston Independent School District's Terrell Middle School is being considered as a possible temporary shelter for unaccompanied Central American children.

"I'm sorry that the parents are in poor living conditions or surroundings or whatever is going on out there, I don't care," said resident Bernadette Lancelin. "I care about what's going on right here, in my own backyard, my neighborhood."

"What's going to keep them from escaping here and just moving around? Around Houston, around Trinity Gardens? What's going to keep them behind these gates? Security, really? They can't even control the border," Lancelin added.

Read more: http://bit.ly/TSBYb1

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8 months ago

Texas town bans border kids

One Texas town says it won't be used to house undocumented children as the ongoing border crisis worsens.

League City council members passed an ordinance that would ban the processing and detention of immigrants caught crossing our border illegally.

While there were protests and legal arguments against the measure, the ordinance passed by a 6-2 vote Tuesday.

City council member Heidi Thiess led the charge to pass this ordinance. Thiess said she believes the federal government is "going behind the back" of communities to find shelters for thousands of Central American immigrants caught illegally crossing the border.

"They're not taking to the people about, you don't get to have a hearing, you don't get to have a say," said Thiess.

Read more: http://bit.ly/1qK0Rma

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8 months ago

Pres. Obama on immigration: 'It's in our DNA'

President Obama will welcome immigrant soldiers, reservists and their spouses at a naturalization ceremony at the White House later today.

The ceremony comes as the president is being pressed to deal with the 52,000 immigrant children who've come here on their own.

The government is spending a million dollars on a new ad campaign in Central America, warning parents it's dangerous to send kids to the United States alone.

So far this year 220 people have been found dead trying to cross the border.

That ad campaign targeting parents isn't just airing in Central America. It's also airing in major U.S. cities, hoping immigrants will send the message back home.

Read more: http://nbcnews.to/1s8hDKQ

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8 months ago

Why Immigration Reform Died in Congress

One day after he declared immigration reform dead, President Obama ran into the realities of trying to fix, on his own, a system flooded by the new wave of children arriving at the U.S. Mexico border.

Every day, more come. On Tuesday children from Central America, some with adults, arrived in San Diego. They had journeyed across Mexico to the border near McAllen, Texas, told they'd get easy access to the United States and a new life.

Instead they will go to ever-more overcrowed detention centers.

President Obama is asking congress for $2 billion for more immigration judges, more detention facilities and an okay for more deportations, but he says anything he does using executive orders won't be enough to fix the broken immigration system that House Republicans refuse to address.

Read more: http://nbcnews.to/1qOin7J

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9 months ago

Protesters ask for better care of migrant children

NOGALES - A couple dozen people attended a vigil for the Central American children held at the Border Patrol station Friday.

Richard Boren delivered a letter from the group to the gated compound.

"I expect they'll be hostile as usual," Boren said. "I think it's rare to find them in a good mood."

An agent opened the gate and took the letter without any problems.

"Now whether they will do anything with the letter, I have my doubts," he said. "But at least it was delivered. And hopefully, all the public attention that's been given will lead to improvements."

The vigil was organized by the Border Patrol Victims Network. They usually focus on what they call unnecessary Border Patrol violence, but Friday was about the migrant children.

All of the politicians and leaders who have visited the facility have said Border Patrol is treating the children as well as possible. The group does not believe agents are being abusive, but they do not think there is a humane way to put hundreds of children in the warehouse.

Miranda Clendening marched to the Border wall with the group. She does not believe the children should be deported.

"I don't know all the political answers, but the best answer is take care of the kids the right way, right now," she said. "I think we have much more resources to take care of them."

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9 months ago

Public hearing needed before vacant TUSD schools could shelter migrant children

TUCSON - As migrant children continue to journey unaccompanied into the United States illegally, the federal government is scrambling to find new spaces to house them. One local proposal would include re-purposing closed TUSD schools into temporary shelters.

TUSD School Board President Adelita Grijalva brought the idea up while considering the number of abandoned schools around town.

The proposal to re-open vacant TUSD schools to house migrant children is starting to get some traction within the community.

"I think it's a good idea -- better than the school just sitting there empty," said Tina Lundy. " I think it would be a good thing to do for the children while they're here -- whether they get to stay or not, that's not up to me but I think it's a good idea to use the schools for that."

However, not everyone is behind this idea. News 4 Tucson posed the question in an online poll which found that 64 percent of respondents were not be in favor of the proposal.

Tucson City officials told News 4 Tucson that the current zoning for most of the abandoned schools could allow for "shelter care" - but not before a public hearing is held before the zoning examiner. That process could take more than 30 days.

Political views aside, some residents argue finding a solution to house the migrant children locally is about facing a humanitarian crisis.

"The whole thing of them being held and sent back is a whole different issue... Them being taken care of as kids, that needs to happen," said David Ross.

No specific TUSD schools were identified for possibly housing migrant children.

It will ultimately be up to the feds to make the decision on whether this idea will ever get off the ground.

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9 months ago

NFD to be reimbursed by Border Patrol for 24 emergency calls

NOGALES - Children that make it across the border sometimes are sick or injured from their journey. Once inside the Nogales detention center, sometimes there are medical emergencies.

Transporting these kids to get help is a responsibility that falls on the shoulders of the Nogales Fire Department.

Division Chief Gerardo Castro said, "Calls range from seizure activities to female teenagers that are pregnant."

Others include allergic reactions, back pain, and dehydration. Most of those patients are taken to Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital.

"The relationship between the city of Nogales and border patrol is a long standing one," said Nogales City Manager Shane Dille. "We've got a lot of history there. The fact of the matter is they have accidents periodically over the course of any given year."

Every day, NFD usually responds to seven or eight medical calls. The extra 1,000 migrant children in town are adding anywhere from one to five runs onto that average.

And each one costs money. It's not coming from the city's pocket.

"Fortunately for us there's already a mechanism in place for the city to recover costs involved in providing those services in support of the Border Patrol operation," said Dille.

The city of Nogales is reimbursed just less than $1,200, plus mileage, for every trip the fire department makes. So in the month of June alone, it could expect around $30,000 from Border Patrol.

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9 months ago

Migrant placement center in Tucson, upsetting some area residents

TUCSON - A migrant placement center will soon open its doors in Tucson. Some living around it are upset they didn't get a voice in the matter, like people in other cities have.

A college housing community is being transformed into a Southwest Key holding facility for children. It's located on Oracle Road near Grant Road.

Once construction is complete some neighbors fear security will be lacking.

Landscapers and construction crews have been working the past two weeks to get it ready. 280 migrants are expected to be housed there.

"I don't like it too much," said area resident Richard Wileman.

Opponents to the federally funded immigrant center worry about traffic, safety and public health.

"With these kids moving in next door it's going to feel really unsafe," said Wileman.

April Vincent adds, "I don't know if we'll really be safe with them coming here because then we'll have them, their families and so forth. It might be kind of risky."

According to the Southwest Key shelter website the ideal length of stay for kids, is 45 days. Their goal is to reunite them with family in the U.S. or back in their home country. While here they receive counseling, medical services and attend on-site school.

Some Tucson residents wonder why they didn't have a say in where the shelter is located. People in Escondido, California did.

This week large crowds against one proposed shelter going up in their community filled City Hall. As a result the Planning Commissioner there ultimately denied a permit to transform a nursing home into a Southwest Key facility.

News 4 Tucson reached out to the City of Tucson and the Mayor's office. We were told someone in Planning and Development will get back to us, to discuss code requirements. No one got back to us, by our newscast deadline.

Linda Hildreth whose adult son lives in public housing next door to the shelter feels unaccompanied children need and deserve help.

"They're here, somebody's got to help them," said Hildreth.

No word yet on when the Tucson facility is set to officially open, children have already been spotted. Southwest Key's website shows they have three centers in the Phoenix area.

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9 months ago

Child migrants head for US to flee crime, drawn by belief they are allowed to stay

ARRIAGA, Mexico (AP) - On the last day of school, Gladys Chinoy memorized her mother's phone number in New York City and boarded a bus to Guatemala's northern border.

With nothing but the clothes on her back, the 14-year-old took a truck-tire raft across the Naranjo River into Mexico and joined a group of five women and a dozen children waiting with one of the smugglers who are paid $6,000 to $7,000 for each migrant they take to the U.S.

The women and children waited by the train tracks in this small town in the southern state of Chiapas until the shriek of a train whistle and the glare of headlights pierced the night. Suddenly, dozens of teens and mothers with young children flooded out of darkened homes and budget hotels, rushing to grab the safest places on the roof of the northbound freight train and join a deluge of children and mothers that is overwhelming the U.S. immigration system.

The number of unaccompanied minors detained on the U.S. border has more than tripled since 2011. Children are also widely believed to be crossing with their parents in rising numbers, although the Obama administration has not released year-by-year figures. The crisis has sparked weeks of bitter political debate inside the U.S., with the administration saying crime is driving migrants north from Central America and congressional Republicans saying Obama's policies are leading migrants to believe children and their mothers will be allowed to stay.

In interviews along the primary migrant route north to the United States, dozens of migrants like Gladys indicated that both sides are right.

A vast majority said they were fleeing gang violence that has reached epidemic levels in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador in recent years. The migrants also uniformly said they decided to head north because they had heard that a change in U.S. law requires the Border Patrol to swiftly release children and their mothers and let them stay in the United States.

The belief that women and children can safely surrender to authorities the moment they set foot in the U.S. has changed the calculus for tens of thousands of parents who no longer worry about their children finishing the dangerous trip north through Mexico with a potentially deadly multiday hike through the desert Southwest.

"The United States is giving us a great opportunity because now, with this new law, we don't have to try to cross the desert where so many people die. We can hand ourselves over directly to the authorities," Gladys said, adding that she hopes to become a doctor.

The smiling teenager with long black hair said she was more excited about seeing her mother again than she was scared about the trip. Her mother said she was aware of the dangers but finally decided the risk was worth it after five years apart.

Reached by phone at home, the mother said she decided to send for her daughter because "if she gets across she can stay here, that's what you hear."

"Now they say that all children need to do is hand themselves over to the Border Patrol," said the mother, who declined to provide her name because she is in the U.S. illegally.

The migrants' faith isn't totally misplaced. While Mexicans generally are returned across the border quickly when they're caught, overwhelmed border facilities leave the government with no way to care for most Central American children and their parents. The Central American minors who cross the border alone have generally been released into the care of relatives already in the U.S., while mothers with children are let go with a notice to appear later in immigration court.

While many children and families may eventually be ordered out of the U.S., many are reporting in calls back home that they're free to move around the U.S. while their cases wend through a process that can take years.

The Obama administration estimates that between October 2013 and September 2014 it will have caught 90,000 children trying to illegally cross the Mexican border without their parents. Last year, the U.S. returned fewer than 2,000 children to their native countries.

"The story is that you have to give yourself up to the Border Patrol, provide a contact in the United States and you'll be freed even though they give you a court date far in the future," said Ruben Figueroa, a member of the Mesoamerica Migrant Movement who works in a shelter for migrants crossing the southeast Mexico state of Tabasco. "If you combine this information with the violence in the streets and extortion keeping people from living their lives, the result is a massive exodus."

Rocio Quinteros worked selling snacks in front of a school in San Miguel, 80 miles outside the capital of El Salvador, until gangsters' demands for a percentage of her income made it impossible to make a living.

She said that when she could no longer afford to pay, members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang threatened to recruit her 14-year-old son instead. This month, she told local gang members she was taking her four children, ages 11 to 17, to see their sick grandmother in another city. Then they abandoned their packed-dirt home on the northeastern edge of the city and headed north.

"They ask you for 100 and you give it, then they ask for 200, and they suffocate you until you have to hand over everything, even your house," she said as she waited with her youngest child in the women's section of Arriaga's migrant shelter. "If we had stayed in El Salvador, I already would have had to bury one of my sons."

With no toys to entertain them, the children in the women's section watch TV until their parents hear the train is on its way. As she waited, Quinteros spoke to her older children through the bars of the metal door of the men's section of the shelter.

In Carmensa, the neighborhood that she and her children abandoned, dozens of homes sit empty because their owners have gone to the United States. The remaining residents described daily lives marred by constant fear.

Gonzalo Velasquez, 66, said he had fled the countryside for San Miguel when El Salvador's 1980s civil war forced him off his small farm in the countryside.

"I lived through the war but this is different," he said. "Before, we knew who was shooting. Today nobody knows ... If you have little kids, young ones, it's better to go so they don't go into the gangs . The stores are closing because they get asked for payoffs and can't pay, so it's better to close."

Quinteros said she believed she was saving her children by fleeing to a place where they wouldn't be subject to gang recruitment.

"On the way north you have the hope of living and the risk of death," she said. "Back home death is certain."

The Obama administration said Friday that it was opening family detention centers on the border to reduce the number of women and children that are released. Vice President Joe Biden flew to Guatemala the same day to emphasize the dangers of the northbound journey and the low chances of staying in the U.S. for good.

It's a tough sell for Central American migrants who say life at home has simply become intolerable.

As Gladys and her companions boarded the train Thursday night, Natanael Lemus, a 30-year-old mechanic from El Salvador, dragged his 10-year-old son, Edwin, and 12-year-old daughter, Cynthia, by the hands as he ran alongside, asking those already aboard for help getting them onto the roof.

On the crowded and slippery roof, Lemus cut black plastic trash bags into raincoats for his wife and kids and tied them to the train with ropes so they wouldn't fall off. He explained that he wanted to leave behind his workshop in the capital, San Salvador, because extortion made it impossible to earn a living.

"If you buy a car, they come to extort you. A machine for the workshop, they come to extort you. If they see you put on some nice pants or sneakers, they come to extort you," Lemus said. "You can't work like that. You go bankrupt."

He said that after taking his wife and children safely north he would wait in Mexico for a chance to cross on his own and hopefully not get caught.

But most important, he said, was getting his wife and children into the hands of the Border Patrol, the first step in what he hoped would be a new and better life.


Associated Press writers Marcos Aleman in San Miguel, El Salvador; Sonia Perez in Guatemala City; Alicia Caldwell in Washington and Michael Weissenstein in Mexico City contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

9 months ago

Migrant children may be drawn to sex and drug trade

TUCSON - As several government agencies struggle to handle the flood of migrant children, who are in the United States Illegally, a bigger nightmare may soon follow for these children.

Some say these minors could become targets of the sex and drug trade here in the U.S.

Julianna Pucillo, with the Sex Worker's Outreach program, says the children are definitely in danger of getting involved in sex and drug trafficking, "You've got an additional burden if you come here and your not documented, so of course they are more vulnerable for many things, Pucillo said, "The thing that makes people vulnerable is poverty, it's not someone trying to get you in to sex work, or the drug trades, it's being poor."

Pucillo was a sex worker as a teenager and later in her life, raising children with few options. She says while it may be hard to understand, the lure of the sex trade for some of the migrant children may be hard to resist, "For somebody coming from extreme poverty, neglect or abuse, being free of that, living on your own terms, having to do a little bit of sex work here and there, that feels pretty great when your coming from difficult circumstances."

While Pucillo believes victims are drawn to the sex and drug trade out of need, Jerry Peyton, the Executive Director of Sold No More, a group committed to ending human trafficking in Tucson, is convinced there is a sinister purpose behind this latest flood of children, "I am absolutely sure this is and organized effort, it almost has to involve organized crime because they control our borders now."

Peyton also believes the new arrivals are perfect candidates for people who prey on children, "We have kids who don't know where they are, don't have any contacts anywhere, who are afraid of law enforcement", said Peyton, "They have got to be the most vulnerable group of kids we have ever seen."

According to the Department of Justice, an estimated 300,000 children are involved in prostitution in the United States, the average age 13-14 years old.

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9 months ago

Brewer to tour facility holding migrant kids

NOGALES - Late Tuesday night the Governor's office announced that Jan Brewer will tour the facility where unaccompanied migrant children are being processed in Nogales. She will join Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on his tour.

Johnson says his trip to the border is focused on getting a firsthand view of what Border Patrol agents are dealing with as they process record numbers of child migrants caught crossing the Mexican border alone.

News 4 Tucson will have a crew in Nogales to get reaction from Johnson and the Governor.

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9 months ago

Homeland Security secretary defends response to migrant children

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is promising lawmakers his department is using every option it can to address the flood of unaccompanied children crossing the southern border.

In Texas, border patrols agents are admittedly overwhelmed. Unaccompanied children from Central America are being transferred to temporary shelters outside the state.

A 2008 law prevents them from being immediately deported. Hundreds have arrived at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. Others are in California at a Ventura naval base.

In Virginia, angry residents convinced the Obama administration to abandon a plan to use the old St. Paul's College campus as another temporary shelter.

The Homeland Security Department estimates more than 65,000 unaccompanied children will be apprehended this year.

Read more: http://nbcnews.to/TsNolO

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9 months ago

Nogales hotels cash in on federal workers aiding in migrant children crisis

NOGALES, Ariz. - An unexpected benefit is arising from the federal response and processing of migrant children at the Nogales Border Patrol Station: an economic boost.

The overall response to the humanitarian crisis continues to grow as federal authorities turn over hundreds of children each day and transfer them to long-term shelters.

Federal workers and contractors have flooded the City of Nogales. They provide services in everything from medical aid to catering.

$868 million has been dedicated to caring for the unaccompanied children for Fiscal Year 2014.

Local hotels are cashing in as the surge of federal workers continues.

"From what I understand most of the hotels are full...more agencies and more people are coming in and probably more people from FEMA will be coming in," said Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino.

Processing at the renovated warehouse could possibly continue through September.

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9 months ago

Border Patrol cancels flights for Central American migrants

As the number of unaccompanied children crossing the southern U.S. border soars
the Obama administration is increasing its warnings to Central American families not to send their children on the treacherous journey.

Meanwhile, top Texas lawmakers toured a shelter Monday where the minors are being kept.

Agents say they're catching as many as 1,200 to 1,400 migrants a day in the Texas Rio Grande Valley, leading some to call this a refugee crisis, not an immigration issue.

"Everybody has found themselves just a little overwhelmed with the amount traffic that we're dealing with," says Raul Ortiz of U.S. Border Control.

In a statement to Central American parents, the Homeland Security Secretary is warning "there are no...free passes at the end."

Since October more than 52,000 unaccompanied children have crossed the southern border.

Finding space for all the migrants continues to be difficult and plans to transfer some to California to ease the overload in texas have been at least temporarily canceled.

Read more: http://nbcnews.to/1jJOBeX

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9 months ago

Grijalva wants more funding and resources for migrant children crisis

NOGALES, Ariz. - Congressman Raul Grijalva got his first look inside the Border Patrol facility processing hundreds of unaccompanied migrant children from Central America.

Grijalva refused to go inside the facility for a tour earlier this week because the group of faith leaders who were with him were denied access by federal officials.

The processing site is supposed to rotate children out within 72 hours of their arrival.

Border agents expect the ongoing stream of work to continue possibly through September. Keeping that in mind, Grijalva said the feds must remain open to outside help.

"One of the things that needs to be worked on is how we work with the religious community and how we work with non-governmental agencies and non-profits so that there's a protocol and they can come and help and Border Patrol can still feel secure that all the protections the kids need are in place," Grijalva said.

He was joined by a group of faith leaders, including Pastor Alison Harrington of the Southside Presbyterian Church.

"It's really heart breaking... and it's hard not to get choked up in there just to see kids as young as six and seven in a facility like this is just not right," Harrington said.

Grijalva said it's especially important to fund the response to this humanitarian crisis as several new shelters prepare to house the wave of immigrant children at sites all across the country.

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9 months ago

Gov. Brewer speaks out on migrant children crisis

TUCSON - State leaders in Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma lobbed harsh criticism at the federal government's handling of the influx of immigrant children fleeing from Central America.

White House officials cite poverty and violence as contributing factors behind the surge in immigrant children showing up in the United States.

State leaders voiced their criticism of the way the Obama Administration has handled the humanitarian crisis.

While the White House plans to inject millions of dollars into Central American countries to try and stem the flow of illegal immigration, some border states are taking matters into their own hands.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry ordered a surge of patrols along the border by its Department of Public Safety with funding of up to $1.3 million per week.

"Apprehension of unaccompanied minor children in the Rio Grande Valley more than doubled last year, overwhelming federal resources and creating the potential for increased drug trafficking and human smuggling," Perry wrote in a letter explaining the move.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said the responsibility rests on the feds.

"We know that there's nothing we can do about it," Brewer said in a press conference Friday afternoon.

"In Arizona we have no money, we certainly don't have those kinds of money but you'll remember that I was the one that took this issue to the Supreme Court and we lost because the court said that the federal government was responsible for the border and immigration."

Fort Sill in Oklahoma is also feeling the strain; up to 1,200 children at any given time are expected to be housed there.

"It puts them in great danger. We've heard stories about death trains where children are so desperate to get to the United States that they're even riding on the tops of the trains, which is very unsafe," said Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.

"Some are coming by buses, some are coming by walking. Some have paid cartels to bring them here," she said.

Speaker of the House John Boehner also sent a letter to President Obama, demanding the White House send National Guard troops to our country's Southern Border.

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9 months ago

McCain: Mexico damaging relations over migrant children crisis

NOGALES - Sen. John McCain toured the Border Patrol facility that is holding about 1,000 children Friday.

He said the children are being treated well, but he blames the humanitarian crisis on the White House.

"First step would be for the President of the United States to announce that if you come here illegally, you can't stay," McCain said. "That message would get down. Right now, over radio and television, these Central American countries are telling them that they can get here and stay."

The children are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, but McCain also blames Mexico for not stopping them on their 2-week trip through their country.

"I called the Mexican ambassador and actually had a long conversation with him and said this and this ex-Marine who is being held, I said, ‘You're really damaging our relations,'" McCain said. "That's not good for Mexico or the United States."

The Marine he referred to was Andrew Tahmooressi, 25. On April 1 he said he accidentally crossed into Mexico with firearms and ammunition because he missed the last available U-turn in San Diego. He is still being held in a Mexican jail.

McCain also said Congress also holds some blame.

"If we had passed immigration reform, which had provisions for $8 billion in border security, for increased technology, which would give us surveillance and 90 percent of border control, which was in the legislation," McCain said. "Then I think this situation would not be what it is."

McCain said the federal government is considering sending some children another 1,000 miles north to a military base in Washington.

9 months ago

Migrant children coming across the Arizona border

NOGALES - News 4 Tucson has learned that on Friday morning a group of 12 women and children from Central America turned themselves in to agents at the Tucson Sector of the border.

"It was an unusual situation because it was the guide himself that presumably crossed them into the U.S.," said Art Del Cueto, the Union President for the Local 2544 Tucson Sector.

Del Cueto says the incident happened in the Douglas area, where the guide went back into Mexico then, "went to the top of the fence and yelled out at some agents saying there are some women and children in that corner wanting to turn themselves in."

Many of them make the trek from their home countries through Mexico on a train.

It's a dangerous train ride that takes them all the way through Mexico to the U.S. Border, the train is known as "The Beast."

The children risk more than falling off the train, they can be robbed, raped or exploited by drug cartels during their journey.

The White House announced on Friday that it will be providing over $254 million to Central American governments to help them deal with various issues from immigration to improving security.

Del Cueto is outraged. "It's upsetting because we're putting money to help these people when they could easily be sent back to their country."

Even more demoralizing, just a few months ago Border Patrol agents were having pay issues. "It seems like we are taking care of a lot of people from other countries instead of taking care of our troops on the ground that have been doing the job for years," said Del Cueto.

9 months ago

Some immigrant children coming to New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Advocates say some of the immigrant families caught crossing the border together illegally will be coming to New Mexico and housed by the Catholic Church.

Thomas Baca, executive director of Catholic Charities in Las Cruces, told The Associated Press on Friday that close to 300 people will be housed at a parish in Anthony, New Mexico, after being released from federal immigration authorities.

He says the Diocese of Las Cruces is working on raising funds to house the immigrants and racing to get the facility ready.

Baca says the Diocese of El Paso is housing around 300 immigrants.

The administration has released an unspecified number of such families into the U.S. in the past several months with instructions to report later to Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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9 months ago

Non-profit clears final hurdle to bring migrant kids to Tucson

TUCSON - The non-profit Southwest Key has been issued a temporary use permit to provide shelter services to unaccompanied migrant children, according to a Tweet from the City of Tucson.

Southwest Key has been contracted by the government to shelter the children, mostly from Central America, who have been coming across the border in Texas by the thousands.

Southwest Key has been readying a former student housing complex north of downtown for several weeks. The process to move into the building started back in May, well before the migrant children crisis was uncovered.

The number of unaccompanied Central American children apprehended at the border with Mexico has surged in recent weeks and could reach 90,000 this year.

9 months ago

Boycott Mexico over the migrant children crisis?

TUCSON - The crisis of unaccompanied minors from Central America is making national headlines.
Wednesday night, on the O'Reilly Factor the television host and political commentator called on Americans to boycott Mexico.

O'Rilley says the Marine held in a Mexican jail for taking weapons across the border and, Mexico not enforcing its immigration laws and letting the children cross into the U.S. are his reasons for supporting a boycott.

Krista Steffen just got back from Rocky Point where she owns a home with her mother. She has no intentions of boycotting Mexico. "I think we all tend to go towards the defenseless, but I just don't think you should boycott any country based on somebody's feelings on an issue."

Felipe Garcia of Visit Tucson believes it would be an economic disaster if there was a boycott. "I think there are problems that need to be fixed in Mexico, immigration law and enforcement of immigration law, but aside from that fact I don't think it's a solution to call for a boycott."

Garcia said Nogales and Santa Cruz County depend on sales tax to survive. "Half of all their taxable sales are coming from people from south of the border."

Not to mention Tucson, where the Mexican trade brings in $200 million during the holidays. "We end up both losing not only does Mexico lose but we lose as well. We are in such a connected economy that we need that trade."

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9 months ago

Border agents give migrant mothers diapers, baby formula

Members of Congress issued a call to action Thursday, pleading for help for thousands of children who've poured across the United States' southern border in recent months.

Since last October roughly 50,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended on the Mexican border, most in Texas and Arizona.

That number could balloon to 90,000 by the end of the year.

Most say they risked their lives walking across Mexico to escape violence in their home countries of Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador. Most are being housed temporarily in crowded, make-shift facilities.

"While not every child will have a valid claim, it's critically important that every child be given the chance to have due process so that we don't inadvertently return them to violence," New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez said.

Other members pleaded for patience in dealing with what they call a humanitarian crisis usually seen elsewhere around the world, not in the United States.

"Many have died on the road to America fleeing certain death and destruction in their own country," Illinos' Rep. Luis Gutierrez noted.

They say up to $2 billion may be needed to deal with the crisis immediately, and while Republicans blame lax border enforcement and relaxed immigration laws under President Obama, Democrats say blame the drug cartels and gangs, and asked the administration to put pressure on the governments in the three countries.

Read more: http://nbcnews.to/1nno49X

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9 months ago

Government provides tour of child immigrant holding facility in Nogales

NOGALES, Ariz. (AP) - The federal government has provided a glimpse of a converted warehouse that is holding hundreds of children who entered the country from Central America.

About 1,000 children are staying at the warehouse. They sleep next to chain-link fences topped by barbed wire that separate the children by age and gender.

A small group of boys had enough space in one fenced-in area to play soccer, but most were lying on tiny mattresses and covered by aluminum foil-like Mylar blankets.

The children are fed both warm and cold meals and three times a day and take turns by group to use the 200-seat dining area.

The children were apprehended in Texas, then taken to Arizona to be processed. They are then sent to a shelter where the government houses them until they can reunite the children with family members.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

9 months ago

Shelter for migrant children opening soon in Tucson

TUCSON - A non-profit group hired to house unaccompanied migrant children will move into a former college student house unit near downtown Tucson as early as next week.

Southwest Key will run the shelter in Ward 3.

It sits on seven acres and has a lot of amenities such as a heated swimming pool, Wi-Fi and spacious bedrooms.

Southwest Key will be running the facility. Currently, they have 17 shelters for unaccompanied children in cities all along the U.S.Mexico Border. The non-profit reports a budget of more than $150 million a year, most of that comes from federal government contracts.

"I think as a community we need to partner with the federal government to make sure that an appropriate site is found," says Carlos Portillo, who owns a Mexican restaurant near the Downtown area.

"Me coming from that background an anytime you can help children is a good thing," says Portillo

Portillo came to this country in 1980; he was 17 and came alone. He worked at the very restaurant he now owns, but business is slow.

"We're struggling to stay open right now and we don't know how long we're going to last, and the shelter nearby won't be good for business. They should find a place somewhere where business won't be affected."

Friday, Uhlich along with other community leaders will be meeting with Bishop Gerald Kicanas to discuss ways to provide humanitarian relief.

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9 months ago

Pressure mounts against child immigrant detention

TUCSON (AP) - The Obama administration came under increasing pressure Thursday from Arizona politicians over its immigration policies as hundreds of immigrant children caught crossing the border illegally are being sent to the state at a converted warehouse in Nogales.

Attorney General Tom Horne threatened legal action Thursday against the government. Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake demanded that Customs and Border Protection allow reporters into the Nogales facility. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has also been highly critical of the policy and demanded that the government stop sending children to the state.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske addressed some of the criticism at a news conference in Washington, saying children are being treated humanely and that there is no free pass for young children or anyone else caught trying to cross the border.

"I have been watching them (Border Patrol agents) do absolutely heroic efforts," Kerlikowske said. "Not only rescuing children but taking care of them, way beyond some of the skill sets. They are doing everything from making formula to brining in their own children's clothing to taking care of these kids in a multitude of ways."

In a letter to Johnson, Horne demanded the agency immediately stop transferring adult migrants and families from Texas to Arizona. He also asked for the Department of Homeland Security to provide the total number of immigrants sent to Arizona and what steps border agents took to ensure they were healthy and lacking a criminal record.

The U.S. has seen a huge surge in immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador crossing the border into Texas, driven in part by violence in their homeland.

More than 47,000 mostly Central American unaccompanied children have been caught illegally crossing the Mexican border into Texas since October. That's left border agents in Texas overwhelmed and unable to process so many children. Within the last week, more than 1,000 of them have been transferred to a warehouse in Nogales, where they are being processed before being sent to shelters in various states and then reunited with family members.

Border Patrol also came under fire last month after dropping off hundreds of women and children who were caught crossing the border illegally into Texas at Tucson and Phoenix Greyhound stations. They are then told to report to immigration authorities within two weeks.

Horne wants to know how immigration officials are keeping track of the women and children who were released at Greyhound stations in Tucson and Phoenix during the last week of May.

"Not only were these inadvisable and irresponsible actions done without notifying Arizona officials, but DHS has yet to explain why it is apprehending aliens in Texas, moving them some 1200 miles and simply releasing them in our state," Horne said while "demanding that it immediately stops."

Media agencies have been denied access to the facility, but border agents have let in lawmakers, religious groups, activists and politicians.

Many of them have provided accounts of what they saw.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada says he was surprised at how well-run the facility was.

"They're well-taken care of. It's incredible the job they've done in such a short time that they have had with this situation," Estrada said.

The Rev. Sean Carroll, who heads the humanitarian organization Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, toured the facility on Wednesday.

"Physically, most looked like they were in good condition, adequately clothed and were having their basic needs met. At the same time, we were not allowed to speak with them, so it was difficult to assess how they were doing psychologically and spiritually," Carroll wrote in a summary of his visit.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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9 months ago

ACLU claims US Customs and Border Protection abused child immigrants

TUCSON - As Nogales officials continue to make room for hundreds of immigrant women and children bused from Texas, civil and human rights organizations are now taking action.

Today the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint on behalf of more than 100 children alleging abuse and mistreatment by US Customs and Border Protection.

At last count, nearly 1,100 children were being held at the Nogales detention center, more are coming in every day. These children, from infants to teenagers, are coming from Central American countries, mainly Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

"Most of these children are fleeing violence, persecution and desperation in their home countries," ACLU Attorney James Lyall said.

Others are hoping to reunite with their parents already in the US.

"They embark on an extremely perilous journey out of desperation to come to the us and then they're being subjected to additional abuses by us officials, death threats, physical abuse, sexual abuse, all sorts of deprivations, extended detention in harsh conditions, extreme climates, lights not being turned off," Lyall said.

He says these complains were filed between March and May of this year, before the recent influx in child immigrants.

"These abuses have been documented and reported to oversight agencies and to DHS for years," Lyall added.

In response, the ACLU is demanding an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security.

News media has yet to be allowed inside any of these detention centers, but the Guatemalan Consulate in Phoenix has been. "At the beginning, there were no beds, and now as far as I understand there have some beds and they can shower every day."

US Customs and Border Protection released a response, saying: "They receive constant agent supervision; that children who exhibit signs of illness or disease are given proper medical care. Mistreatment or misconduct is not tolerated."

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9 months ago

Councilor Romero asking city to establish shelter for immigrant youth

TUCSON- Tucson City Councilor Regina Romero is calling on the Tucson City Council to work with the federal government in establishing a Tucson-based shelter for the migrant youth being transported and held in Nogales.

Romero said she has serious concerns over the facility conditions the youth are being held in currently in Nogales.

"This is a humanitarian emergency. As a city we have a responsibility to be a part of the solution, not part of the problem," said Romero. "If existing site options do not represent a feasible solution, staff needs to work diligently to find alternatives.

Romero said that the city needs to move quickly to "address the requests for support."

"No child, regardless of country of origin of socio-economic status, deserves to be detained in this way," said Romero. "These are kids guilty only of their circumstances. It is unconscionable not do all we can to help."

Bishop Gerald Kicanas will meet with social services and community leaders this Friday to discuss more immediate ways to provide humanitarian relief.

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9 months ago

Senate panel gives $2 billion for child immigrants

WASHINGTON (AP) - A Senate appropriations panel has approved giving the Obama administration $2 billion it requested to handle the influx of immigrant children caught trying to cross the Mexican border alone.

The Obama administration last month asked the Senate panel to give the Health and Human Services Department $1.4 billion more than the administration originally asked for to deal with tens of thousands of children apprehended this year by the Homeland Security Department. The full Senate would have to act on its version, and the House has not yet dealt with the issue.

More than 48,000 child immigrants traveling alone have been caught at the border since the start of the 2014 budget year in October.

Officials underestimated this year's spike in the growing number of immigrant children entering this country.

9 months ago

County warns of charges for Feds for flood of immigrant children

TUCSON- Could the Federal Government face criminal charges over the treatment, of hundreds of children who have entered the United States and Arizona illegally?

Maricopa County Attorney, Bill Montgomery, says yes and today he made that clear to the man who heads up U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement, or "ICE".

Calling the bussing of women and children from Texas to Arizona "appalling" Montgomery sent a warning of possible criminal charges for child abuse to the head of ICE.

In a letter to Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Thomas Winkowski, Montgomery stated:

"Given these possible circumstances during a time of year when the Phoenix metro area experiences temperatures in excess of 100 degrees, any federal official who directly engages in such conduct or who authorizes such conduct may be guilty of a class 4 felony."

While the document may have been a posturing move to try and stem the flow of immigrants, UA Law Professor, Andy Silverman, says the state may have a case, "They have to provide a humane living situation for these unnacompanied minors or even where there are women with minors, it's really ultimately the responsibility of the United States government."

And with so many minors on their own, the nightmare regarding their rights, while in the country illegally, is only part of the challenge for immigration lawyers like Patricia Mejia, "Its really frustrating, it's very difficult because they don't understand", Mejia said, "you need to be taught how to talk to children about legal rights, because you have to draw pictures, you have to do diagrams, so that they understand and you feel comfortable that yes we did everything you could to explain to this child what's going on here today."

County Attorney Bill Montgomery also says that federal officials could also face other violations under the United Nations declaration on human rights.

9 months ago

N4T Investigators: U.S. opening immigrant child shelter near downtown Tucson

TUCSON - The U.S. government has been overwhelmed with hundreds of immigrant children caught at the border. But the question of what will happen with those children remains. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has quietly been making plans to shelter some of those children here in Tucson.

The agency awarded a contract to Southwest Key, a non-profit organization that shelters children captured crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally across the nation.

Similar contracts awarded by HHS show that children can be sheltered for as long as 35 days. KVOA is not identifying the location of this shelter in Tucson because advocates compare it to a domestic violence shelter and didn't want to put its future occupants at risk.

Kenneth Wolfe is spokesman for HHS's Office of Refugee Resettlement. He refused to answer questions about the specifics of the shelter in Tucson and how much it would cost.

However, Lane Mandle, spokeswoman for the Tucson city manager's office, said the city will meet with Southwest Key officials Tuesday morning to determine what sort of facility the non-profit will be opening in Tucson. The non-profit organization held a job fair over two days in Tucson last week. Officials there said they were prevented from speaking to the news media about their project citing a nondisclosure agreement in the HHS contract.

Andrew Wilder, spokesman for Gov. Jan Brewer questioned the validity of Southwest Key's claim that the shelter is not a detention facility. He said Southwest Key filled out an application with the state Department of Health Services May 21 but never completed its application. The governor's office has been a staunch critic of the Obama Administration's policies with non-Mexican immigrants captured at the border ever since it was revealed that the agency was dropping detainees off at Greyhound bus stations in Tucson and Phoenix with orders to appear at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices throughout the country.

The Homeland Security Department has driven busloads of immigrant children down to the Nogales Border Patrol station in recent days. The number of unaccompanied children detained has overwhelmed the agency and some law enforcement sources are concerned with health concerns.

Last week, a 17-year-old girl went into labor in the processing station. Over the weekend, local paramedics responded to two calls for service inside the station.

"It's been a trying time because obviously right now we have to move certain elements and certain agents guarding the border now having to move over to the center," said Border Patrol Local 2544 union president Art del Cueto.

Border Patrol agents have been pulled off patrolling the border and ordered to help in processing and guarding the children.

"We were caught off-guard, put it that way. Especially when you see that the budget took hits. Border Patrol agents were hit with the hours that they worked and then all of a sudden this gets swarmed in and now all of a sudden that's out the window because you need to take care of these individuals," del Cueto said.

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9 months ago

Nogales official says immigrant kids in good care

NOGALES, Ariz. (AP) - The mayor of Nogales says he's comfortable with conditions in a giant warehouse where hundreds of unaccompanied migrant children are being held.

Mayor Arturo Garino was given a tour of the Nogales U.S. Border Patrol facilities on Monday.

Garino says the kids are well cared for and seem to be in good spirits.

Officials have said about 700 mostly Central American children are being processed in Nogales after being caught entering the U.S. illegally through south Texas.

Garino says he saw nearly 1,000 children but that many are being constantly rotated out to facilities in Oklahoma and California.

President Barack Obama has called the situation a humanitarian crisis, while state officials have been heavily critical of how immigration officials have handled the influx of children traveling alone into the country.

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9 months ago

US agency still flying migrant families to Arizona

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's spokesman says federal officials have confirmed that migrants arrested in Texas will continue to be flown to Arizona.

In addition, hundreds of unaccompanied minors a day are being sent to a detention center in southern Arizona. Brewer spokesman Andrew Wilder says federal officials have asked the state to release warehoused medical supplies and ship them to Nogales to deal with what Wilder called a humanitarian crisis.

Wilder said Friday that reports from foreign consulates that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was stopping a months-long program to fly migrant families to Arizona and then bus them to Phoenix were incorrect.

Homeland Security officials promised an update on their efforts to deal with a flood of Central American migrants to Texas later Friday.

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9 months ago

DHS to stop transporting migrants to Arizona

PHOENIX (AP) - Officials with the Honduran and Guatemalan consulates in Phoenix say no more migrant families are being transported to Arizona from Texas.

Consulate officials tell KPHO-TV they've been told by Immigration and Customs Enforcement that Thursday was the last day of migrant drop-offs.

The DHS began transporting hundreds of undocumented immigrants from southern Texas to Arizona over the Memorial Day weekend and then releasing them at Greyhound bus stations in Tucson and Phoenix.

DHS officials say the U.S. Border Patrol didn't have the manpower to handle a surge in immigrants from Central America crossing the border illegally in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer sent a letter Monday to President Barack Obama, saying she was alarmed that federal officials didn't notify state and local law enforcement.

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