PHOENIX — The drop-off of hundreds of illegal immigrants at the Greyhound Bus station in Phoenix in recent weeks came as a complete surprise to the leaders of two Central American consulates in the Valley.
“I learned immigrants from Central American were arriving in Phoenix as I was driving into work last week, listening to the radio,” said Honorary Consul of Honduras Tony Banegas.
Banegas said he had to call Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to try to get more information about the people bussed into Phoenix.
“We wanted to know at least the frequency and how many folks would be coming,” he said.
Along with consuls from other Central American countries, Banegas asked for a list of names of who would be arriving and from which countries. ICE did not provide the information.
“Thanks to great volunteers, we’ve been able to help them with food and shelter,” he said.
The Phoenix Restoration Project has taken the lead in welcoming the dozens of immigrants arriving since May 30. Volunteers are even opening their own homes to house them if they cannot make arrangements in a timely manner to continue on their way elsewhere in the U.S.
The plight of these Central American immigrants fleeing their home countries is deep-rooted in the troubling conditions they try to escape from.
“People don’t feel safe back home,” said Maria Jimena Diaz, general consul of Guatemala in Arizona.
Almost echoing Diaz’s words, Banejas describes conditions in their home countries as deteriorating.
“They’re fleeing violence in their communities, some of their family members have been killed,” Banegas said. “They’re fleeing for their lives and asking for political asylum.”
Asylum isn’t guaranteed, explained Diaz.
“One of the concerns we have is what happens if immigrants are allowed to stay in the U.S. for a few months, but their cases are not accepted,” she explained.
She worries deportations will cause even more hardship to immigrants already risking their lives crossing through Mexico to make it to the U.S.
Part of the decision pushing these immigrants to pick up and head north is word they are being released after capture.
“The human traffickers are selling it to immigrants in a way that says ‘If you come with a child, the United States will allow you to stay here,'” Diaz said.
Over 400 immigrants were transported from Texas to Arizona by plane to be processed by Border Patrol in Tucson. DHS has then been bussing dozens of them to bus stations in Phoenix and in Tucson.
“People I’ve spoken arriving at the bus stations have court dates [with ICE] in two weeks,” said Banejas.
Meanwhile, growing calls for answers from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Arizona’s congressional delegation remain unanswered by the White House.
While humanitarian groups continue to take center stage in providing basic necessities to illegal immigrants who continue to be dropped off in Phoenix, the consuls of Honduras and Guatemala still see no end in sight to the plight of migrants leaving their home countries for a better life. These people will likely be dropped off in El Paso, Texas for the near-future. It is unclear why that city and what could happen next.