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ICE released 18,500 immigrants into Arizona in span of 3 months

(KTAR News Photo/Nailea Leon)

PHOENIX — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released 18,500 immigrants from federal detention into Arizona in the span of three months, the agency told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday.

Between Dec. 21 and March 20, ICE released a total of 108,500 immigrants into the U.S.

“The sheer volume of family units crossing the border has overwhelmed ICE’s limited transportation resources; combined with a requirement to detain these individuals for no more than 20 days, the agency has no option but to expeditiously arrange for their release,” the agency said in a statement.

“ICE makes every attempt to coordinate the release of these individuals with NGOs that provide assistance with basic needs, but the heavy influx in recent months has inundated these organizations as well.”

In a Thursday statement, U.S. Sen. Martha McSally called on the Department of Homeland Security to increase coordination with local governments and nonprofits when releasing migrants into communities.

“While I recognize that DHS has limited resources to deal with heavy influxes of migrants, I urge DHS to examine its current efforts to coordinate with NGOs and state and local governments to identify potential areas for improvement,” McSally said.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey called out the federal government Wednesday for the way it has handled the release of migrants into the state.

He told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos that the federal government needs to better communicate when and where it plans to drop people off so nonprofits and churches can prepare to assist them.

The groups generally provide migrants with resources, help them make travel plans to connect with family members and sometimes provide temporary shelter.

Ducey called on Congress last week to take action on what he calls a humanitarian crisis in the state.

Mesa Pastor Magdalena Schwartz told KTAR News last week that she and the volunteers she works with were completely overwhelmed with the numbers.

Schwartz’s network of metro Phoenix churches have housed thousands of migrants over the past five or so months, and she said she wanted to see the governor’s office or the city of Phoenix provide a facility to care for migrants.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Arizona tested a temporary relief center in Phoenix last week in an effort to provide migrants with basic necessities.

However, the group is unable to provide overnight shelter and can only serve about 100 people per day.

Michael Stancliff with the Phoenix Restoration Project said his group isn’t feeling the strain, as it’s continually getting more volunteers.

“For every church that pulls back there’s another one that steps up,” he told KTAR News last week.

Henry Lucero, the Phoenix field director for ICE, told KTAR News last week that it has no legal obligation to house migrants it releases.

“I know it’s not sustainable. They’re doing it with volunteer support and volunteer donations,” he said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Martha Maurer contributed to this report.

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