This week, hundreds of immigrants who were caught while attempting to cross the Mexico-Texas border are being released in Phoenix by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
A local humanitarian group has been working to deal with the consequences of it all.
A guest on 92.3 KTAR’s Mac & Gaydos on Thursday, Cyndi Whitmore of the Phoenix Restoration Project helped explain the alarming magnitude and intricacies of the situation.
“What we’re seeing is an influx of families — primarily women — but there are also some fathers with young children, ranging from six months to 12 years of age, that have been released in Phoenix this week,” Whitmore explained. “I think Tuesday night was the first time we’ve seen this happen in Phoenix, but it’s been happening in Tucson for some time.”
Whitmore, a volunteer with the organization — which is comprised of others like herself, lacking a 501(c)(3) exemption status — explained that the immigrants are left at Greyhound stations without bus tickets, food and water. Parents are not given diapers or formula for their children.
“(On Wednesday night), I’d say we had between 50 and 75 and there have already been 100 people released today and we anticipate that more will come today,” she said.
According to Whitmore, ICE has long held this practice.
“This is something that happens all over the country,” she went on. “When people are released from detention, if they’re not local (to) the detention center that they’re being released from — and most of the time they’re not — ICE doesn’t, whether they win their case or are released on their own recognizance or posted on bond, transfer them back to where they were picked up or where they were going.”
But it’s the newer look of the dropoffs that has Whitmore troubled.
“This is actually nothing new; What’s new is that we’re seeing families with young children.
“Phoenix Restoration Project (has been) responding to this humanitarian need for some time,” she said. “We’re just used to dealing with smaller numbers of adult men and women being released.”
As for the sudden rise in the Phoenix-area dropoffs, Whitmore is as baffled as the rest of the city.
“It’s really counter-intuitive that most of these people that need help so far, almost everyone has been headed to the midwest or the east coast — that’s where they’re supposed to report in 15 days,” she said.
Again, why Arizona? Why Phoenix?
“I’d love to know the answer to that,” she said.
But no matter what state the immigrants were detained in, Whitmore holds a belief that it’s the duty of all to assist their fellow human beings.
“Regardless of where people are being held in detention centers or where they’re being released, it’s all of our problem,” she said.
“Whether they were detained at the Arizona border or the Texas border, they need help.”
And just days into the sudden spike, Whitmore said that help has, indeed, come.
“We’ve seen an amazing initial response from the community,” she said.
But Phoenix Restoration Project says they could always use more assistance, whether from the general public, other non-government organizations, faith-based charities or otherwise.
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