As scores pour in, volunteers take illegal immigrants into their homes
PHOENIX — There is still no end in sight to the dozens of undocumented immigrants from Central America who continue to be dropped off at the Greyhound bus station in Phoenix.
Out of the chaos that stems from immigrants essentially being dumped at the terminal with minor belongings in tow, a group of volunteers have taken over an operation no one else seems to want to deal with.
“If I can do something for whoever is in need, I’m happy to do it,” said David Alaniz, volunteer with the Restoration Project in Phoenix. “These immigrants are normal people, like you and me, and they need help.”
Alaniz refers to the now hundreds of undocumented immigrants transported by the Department of Homeland Security from Texas to Arizona.
Over the last few weeks, dozens of immigrants have been dropped off at the Greyhound Bus terminal at 2115 E. Buckeye Rd. in Phoenix. Once they arrive, they are greeted by volunteers, like Alaniz, with warm welcomes, such as “We’re happy you are here!” and “You’re almost there!” Most of the immigrants are women, the majority carrying babies in their arms or tightly holding on to their young kids by the hand. Only a few men descend from the white bus.
Single file, volunteers lead the immigrants inside the bus station. Once inside, already-placed tables loaded with water and Pedialyte for the kids have blank sheets of papers volunteers use to fill out the immigrants’ personal information. Within minutes, groups of people are told to follow a volunteer who is waiting to transport them, in their own personal vehicles, to nearby shelters.
“We take them there to feed them, let them shower and to process their bus tickets,” said Alaniz.
The Phoenix Restoration Project has secured locations near the bus terminal where immigrants are given a space to rest and make phone calls to relatives who can purchase bus fare for them.
“Once they have their bus ticket, we bring them back [to the terminal] and they’re good to go,” he said.
Since Greyhound no longer facilitates the space for volunteers to set up shop, the Restoration Project takes immigrants to two locations: IUAPT, or the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, and Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, both in Phoenix. If any immigrants are not able to reach a family member in time before night falls, volunteers are opening up their own homes to house them for the night.
It’s an effort that although Arizona’s top leaders agree that it may be inhumane for hundreds of immigrants to be left to their own devices in the heat, it’s one that needs answers from the federal government.
Earlier this week, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking why ICE is making the transport of illegal immigrants from Texas to Arizona.
In it, she states, “As governor of Arizona, I am deeply concerned about this troubling policy and the adverse impact on the illegal aliens, as well as to Arizona.”
Her sentiment isn’t hers alone. Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said he takes issue with the feds essentially dumping immigrants into Arizona.
“All they have to do is sign a promise to appear in 15 or 30 days to the court. This is insanity,” Babeu said. “These people (that) have come from foreign countries have broken the law, and we’re not enforcing the law on them.”
Also this week, Arizona Congressman Matt Salmon wrote a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson demanding answers into the practice.
ICE has not given specifics as to how many immigrants caught crossing the border illegally have been released in Arizona. They also have not explained the process in which the immigrants are receiving notices to appear at an ICE office once they arrive to their intended destination.
What is clear, at least to the volunteers showing up at the Greyhound bus station in Phoenix day after day, is that these undocumented immigrants need help.
The Phoenix Restoration Project is accepting donations at several locations throughout the Valley. They have a list of their needed items and drop off locations here.