The makeshift intake center set up at the Greyhound bus station to help immigrants dropped off by immigration officials is moving to better accommodate the families coming through Tucson.
But the location of the new center is not being disclosed over concerns about anti-immigration groups.
“We don’t want the kinds of protests that we are seeing in Murrieta and that are now starting to pop up in Arizona,” said City Councilman Steve Kozachik, referring to the Southern California town where demonstrations recently led U.S. Customs and Border Protection to stop busing immigrants to the area.
Kozachik is part of Project Mariposa, a group created to address the needs of immigrant families being released in Tucson with a notice to appear before an immigration official at their final destination. The group gets its name from Casa Mariposa, an organization that had been helping people released from detention centers and later the women and children dropped off at the bus stations until it became overwhelmed by the increasing numbers.
So far the families, mostly women and children from Central America, have been left at the Greyhound station, something that will change when the new intake center opens on Aug. 1.
After that date, immigrants will be taken to the new center before being transported to the bus station when they are ready to leave. Most of them secure passage the same day, but some stay with volunteers for up to three days.
The improvised intake room at the back of the Greyhound bus station is crowded by plastic containers with donated clothes, sorted by size and gender, boxes of diapers and tables full of instant soups and oral electrolyte solutions to help the women and children who often come in dehydrated.
Although volunteers have tried to make it as comfortable as possible, it is still a waiting room.
The new site, which is being provided by Catholic Community Services, will offer an outdoor fenced-in play area, more comfortable seating, a kitchenette and a more private setting for meetings with consulate officials.
Casa Mariposa and Project Mariposa have organized more than 200 volunteers who take turns going to the bus station on different days and shifts because there are no set times for drop-off by Customs and Border Protection officials.
“The response has been amazing,” said volunteer coordinator Sabrina Lopez. “There is a large number of volunteers, which I think speaks volumes about the Tucson community. So many people have just been eager to help.”
While Kozachik said he was proud of the welcoming attitude by the community at large as well as area nonprofits, the risk of exposing the families to anti-immigrant groups is keeping Project Mariposa from disclosing the new center’s location.
“These people protesting need to understand what the people coming here have been through,” he said. “They need to set their flags down, get on these buses and learn some of these stories.”