Immigrant flood prompts plans for Guatemalan consulate here

2014-07-08T22:00:00Z 2014-07-12T17:06:12Z Immigrant flood prompts plans for Guatemalan consulate hereBy Darren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The Guatemalan government plans to open a consulate in Tucson to help deal with the wave of immigrants from that country illegally crossing into the United States and winding up in at the downtown Greyhound station.

Guatemala’s consul general in Phoenix, Jímena Díaz, said the nation had considered opening an office in Tucson months ago, but recent events hastened those plans.

“With the huge amount of immigrants coming to Tucson, they decided to open it as soon as possible,” Díaz said.

Talk about a Tucson office surfaced last week when Guatemala’s first lady, Rosa Leal de Pérez, visited Tucson, Díaz said. But the discussion was only cursory.

Next week a consulate staffer will visit Tucson to check out sites.

Díaz said an opening date for the office depends on how soon a suitable space can be found. She said Guatemala was looking for an office comparable to the current Mexican Consulate in Tucson.

A city official said a meeting was scheduled Tuesday morning to show a consulate representative several potential office sites, but the representative canceled.

City Councilman Steve Kozachik, who orchestrated the meeting, said the tour would have included La Placita, the new Pima County Courthouse, the Transamerica Building and four other sites.

Kozachik said no city money will be spent on the Guatemalan Consulate. He said a private real estate agent was going to show the properties.

Lack of money cited

Guatemala had a person in Tucson who was working with immigrants as they arrived at the Greyhound station. But they had to eliminate that position recently because the money ran out to fund it, Díaz said.

And that has placed a larger burden on social-service groups assisting the roughly 30 immigrants who arrive at the Greyhound station every day, Kozachik said.

Kozachik said that person would be Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s contact for immigrants getting dropped off at the Greyhound station.

“We’ve got volunteers now just hanging out at the bus station not having any idea who’s coming, when and how many,” said Kozachik, who held a meeting a few weeks ago to coordinate local nonprofit agencies to address the bus station.

He said if the Guatemalan government has enough money to pay for the first lady to take a sightseeing trip to Tucson, it can continue to pay for a liaison at the bus station.

“The people of Tucson have been carrying their load for long enough,” Kozachik said. “It’s well past time that they do something other than just send a dignitary here to survey the situation, do some photo ops and head back home thinking something had been accomplished.”

Díaz said a consulate representative would split time between Nogales and Tucson until the consulate opens.

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com. Follow on Twitter @DarrenDaRonco

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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