A girl takes a plate of salad from one of the dozens of volunteers who showed up at a Tucson church this weekend to help Central American migrant families who were recently released by immigration officials.

Over the past two weeks, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has engaged in a mass release of migrant families. The result is intake centers being overburdened by the sheer numbers of people needing assistance.

Let’s be clear. This is an intentionally created “crisis” timed and planned to have maximum impact on the midterm elections. It’s all about politics and optics. It’s all about using young moms and their children as political pawns in our election cycle. And its disgusting.

A bit of history: In the summer of 2014, we experienced an uptick in the number of people fleeing persecution in Central America. At the time, ICE was processing the families and then dropping them off at the Greyhound Bus Depot downtown. A group of Tucson residents formed what became known as Project Mariposa, volunteers who worked in shifts at the depot providing food, clothing and travel assistance for the migrant families. When the numbers exceeded the ability of the depot to support the work, Catholic Community Services stepped in and moved the families to the Alitas House, which continued what was being done at the depot. With the help of the volunteers and others, the work serving migrant families fleeing persecution in Central America has continued every day and every night ever since.

As the number of families needing assistance increased, other sites made themselves available throughout the city. Taking care of people in need is what we do as a community.

ICE knows where the drop-off locations are and has been regularly releasing people in numbers that are manageable with the volunteer resources available. Given the ability of the community to assist in caring for the families, there is no justification for keeping them confined in the conditions that exist in federal detention facilities. Gradual increases in numbers, with notice given by ICE that we’d need to get ready for them, has been a workable relationship.

Until now. Now it’s election season. Now the optics are too tempting.

The mass releases will be portrayed in political advertisements as an example of an existential threat that exists along our border. The messaging will fail to truly describe who is showing up at the intake centers now being established throughout Tucson for humanitarian care.

The messaging will fail to tell the story of the young moms who have fled Central American gangs. It will fail to describe the rapes, murders and human exploitation that caused them to brave the elements and dangers of crossing the desert with young kids, heading to the safety of America. The messaging will not tell you these are families deserving of asylum. They’re not coming here to “take our jobs.” They’re coming here to survive. Caring for asylum-seekers is supposed to be built into our ethical fabric.

Using the vulnerability of others to your own political advantage has no place in our culture.

In the past week, we have seen Tucson faith communities and nonsectarian groups band together to address the needs we are seeing. Undaunted by the crass politics that lay behind the mass releases and the inevitable portrayal of an apocalyptic border threat, Tucson does what it does. We take care of those in need.

Please consider how you can help. We at the Ward 6 office are receiving donated goods and delivering them to the several relief centers now operating throughout town. Since we put out the word, we’ve made multiple trips to the centers, taking donations we’ve received from as far away as Austin, Texas. We will to do so as long as the need exists.

The Ward 6 office is at 3202 E. First St. Donations should be newly purchased undergarments, socks, backpacks, travel blankets and prepackaged food. Anything you’d pack for your family and young ones if you were headed off on a three-day bus trip.

I continue to be humbled by the volunteer effort of so many Tucsonans who see a need and step towards it. On behalf of the families being touched by your generosity, we at the Ward 6 City Council office thank you for your help.

Steve Kozachik represents Ward 6 on the Tucson City Council.