Undocumented women and children, who now spend up to three days stuck in Tucson waiting for a bus to take them someplace where they can await deportation hearings, may soon have a safer and more comfortable option.
The city is coordinating with nonprofit organizations, such as Catholic Community Services and the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, to set up an intake center near the downtown Tucson Greyhound Depot to provide the women and children with food, clothes and temporary housing as they transition through Tucson.
“Greyhound management has been patient as we worked to put these pieces together, but we can’t continue to let people sit at the bus station,” said Councilman Steve Kozachik, who arranged a meeting among nonprofits, representatives from the Ward 1 City Council Office and the Mayor’s Office to discuss a plan.
He said the city won’t be sinking dollars into the effort, but will coordinate with the charity groups.
“This is going to be nonprofit-driven,” Kozachik said. “It’s all about gathering the nonprofits together.”
The women and children who have been apprehended and released to await deportation hearings are dropped off at the depot by federal officials.
Casa Mariposa and other charities have provided some assistance, including housing them while they get their bus ticket, but the volume of immigrants has overwhelmed the available resources.
Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said it’s the appropriate response for the city to coordinate nonprofits as they assist the women and children before they move on.
Volunteers at the intake center will provide the women and children with travel bags, food, clothing and other needed supplies for their trip, Kozachik said. The nonprofits will provide temporary housing if needed.
“We will triage their needs. Some are only here for three hours while some are here three days,” Kozachik said. “All we have to do is transition them to the next stop.”
Kozachik said he orchestrated the meeting because it’s clear the problem isn’t going away anytime soon.
“Border Patrol said this could go on indefinitely,” he said. “This is something the city should have done weeks ago.”
Councilwoman Regina Romero said the city could do more to help the women and children.
She called on the city’s Housing and Community Development Department to activate emergency shelters through the nonprofit groups the city already funds.
“We need our city employees to help coordinate the efforts. It’s not enough for city staff to put their hands up and say we don’t do these things directly,” Romero said. “We need to be responsible as a city for this crisis.”
The proposal is the latest effort to provide a solution for the growing number of immigrants flowing through Southern Arizona.
Earlier this week, Adelita Grijalva, president of the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board, proposed housing some of the unaccompanied migrant children at closed TUSD schools.