Phoenix-area families opening their homes to migrants released by ICE
PHOENIX — A church in the East Valley is providing more than just food and clothes to Central American migrants released by immigration officials.
Central Christian Church in Mesa is connecting migrants with families across the Valley who are opening their homes to them.
“It’s been amazing to see just the way that people are saying, ‘I have room and I’ve been blessed and this is a chance for me to help somebody else out,’” said Matt Nutter, director of global outreach for Central Christian Church.
The church is part of a network of about 10 churches across the Valley that have stepped up to help more than 4,000 Central American migrants released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
ICE has dropped off migrants at Central Christian Church’s Mesa location on five different occasions since the beginning of October. Many of them are parents with children from Central American seeking asylum in the United States.
Last Wednesday, the church received nearly 130 migrants. In total, the church has connected about 350 migrants with host families.
Nutter said volunteers usually show up to lend a hand when the migrants are dropped off and at first have no intention of hosting them.
“They’re here to help serve food or help distribute clothing,” he said. “But as they get a chance to meet the people and see the people, by the end of the evening they’re stepping up and saying ‘Hey, I’m willing to take somebody home with me.’”
The migrants stay with the host families for about a day until their relatives living in the U.S. buy them plane or bus tickets to be reunited.
Not all host families speak Spanish, but they’re finding ways to get around that. Some are reaching out to neighbors who speak Spanish to help them translate.
Nutter said this experience is helping church members and volunteers see the migrants “as people first.”
“Especially right now as the holiday season is coming up and it’s the season of compassion, people are saying, ‘It’s important to help out,’” he said.