Mesa church helps migrants released by immigration officials
PHOENIX — A church in Mesa is once again welcoming migrants released by immigration officials.
Iglesias Cristiana El Buen Pastor, which in English means the Good Pastor Christian Church, has been receiving about 50 migrants per week over the past two months.
Hector Ramirez is the pastor of the church located near Alma School and Broadway roads. He said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials drop off the migrants in buses after they’re released from custody.
Many of them are parents with young children who are seeking asylum in the United States.
“We welcome every single person,” Ramirez told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “They come from various nationalities. This past week, we had people arrive from India, Cuba, Colombia and Venezuela.”
Volunteers at the church provide the migrants food, clothes, toiletries and a place to stay until loved ones in other states can pay for plane and bus tickets. During their stay, the migrants also have access to legal counsel and a medical team who can provide COVID-19 vaccines and testing.
Ramirez emphasized his church is doing everything it can “to make sure they feel fine.”
“They’ve gone through a lot to get here,” he said. “Some spent three to four days in immigration detention centers, in addition to the time they had to wait on the Mexican side of the border. So many of them come here suffering.”
Ramirez said those with young children “arrive here traumatized to see the suffering their kids have gone through.” He said some were briefly separated inside detention centers, causing “serious psychological trauma” for both the parents and kids.
This is not the first time the church has helped migrants. It started doing so in 2019.
Ramirez said ICE stopped dropping off migrants when Title 42 went into effect under the Trump administration. The policy forced migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims were pending as a way to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The church started receiving migrants again about two months ago. Ramirez said he expects they’ll start to get even more when Title 42 is lifted on May 23.
“We will continue to keep the doors of our church open for as long as we can,” he said, adding the church needs donations and volunteers.
Anyone interested in helping can contact the church.