Phoenix church helping asylum-seeking migrants with basic needs
PHOENIX — A Phoenix church is once again stepping up amid a surge of asylum-seeking migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border by providing basic needs for those who await a hearing date.
“About two months ago, ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) contacted us, not only me but other pastors, because we were helping in the past,” Pastor Angel Campos of the Monte Vista Cross Cultural Church in Phoenix told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad on Tuesday.
“They asked us if we were able to help again, I said yes after taking it to the board of the church.”
Prior to arriving at the church, migrants are brought to a welcome center where they receive a COVID-19 test and after testing negative for the virus, the church takes them in.
“We feed them, we provide them with a shower and clothing,” Campos said, adding some need medical help. “Then we help them contact their families.”
Campos said nonprofit organizations bring food and clothing, while the Red Cross provides cots and blankets.
The rest of the responsibilities – including caring for the migrants, cooking food and cleaning the church – are done by a group of four to five volunteers, which Campos said is less than the church had before. Volunteers are vaccinated against COVID-19, Campos said.
Campos has heard many stories from asylum-seeking migrants fleeing countries due to violence, adding people have come from places like Cuba, Brazil and Ecuador.
“The violence has grown so much,” Campos said. “A lot of robberies, a lot of violence.”
A young man who came to the church told Campos a group of people nearly killed him while attempting to steal a bicycle in Honduras.
“Stories like that, we have a lot,” Campos said.
Another family had been traveling for six years, Campos said, staying in one place for a short amount of time to earn money before once again making their way toward the United States. Three of the four children in the family were born in different countries during the journey, according to Campos.
Campos said the church only receives those who are staying overnight, adding 47 people comprised of 19 families came Monday but that number dropped to 20 or 15 on Tuesday.
Lawmakers have called the surge of migrants at the border a “crisis,” with Republicans taking aim at the Biden administration saying migrants were led to think it would be easier to get into the U.S. than it was under President Donald Trump due to policies and messaging.
The U.S. has seen a dramatic spike in the number of people encountered by border officials since President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January, with 18,945 family members and 9,297 unaccompanied children being encountered in February. That marks an increase of 168% and 63%, respectively, from the month before, according to the Pew Research Center.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said the message is clear not to come and the border is closed and secure, but lawmakers from both sides are asking for more.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, the chair of the Senate border management subcommittee, sent a letter to Biden co-signed by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), on Monday urging him “to use your full authorities to effectively respond to and successfully manage the ongoing crisis at our Southwest Border.”
Biden before boarding Air Force One on Tuesday night said he would have more to say on the situation at the border in the next couple of days.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.