PHOENIX — A local pastor who works closely with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, is worried the rising amount of migrants dropped off at the Greyhound station is turning into a public health concern.
“We’re worried about ICE releasing sick families to the bus station,” said Pastor Magdalena Schwartz.
She’s been helping migrants with temporary food and shelter since ICE began dropping them off around valley churches in October.
Schwartz says some parents don’t tell immigration officials their kids could be sick because they fear being separated from them, so a lot of families, potentially sick, end up at the Phoenix bus station on 24th Street and Buckeye after ICE releases them there.
“I don’t think it’s good for the city… because if someone brings disease, it can spread out,” said Schwartz. She says she's already come across families with children sick with chicken pox, one of them taken to the hospital.
She’s publicly asking Governor Doug Ducey for help to provide resources, like a facility where migrants can temporarily stay until they re-connect with loved ones and await their immigration court dates.
Currently, Schwartz says they are extremely low on resources and shelter to keep helping families. She adds the amount of local churches assisting in this “humanitarian crisis” has reduced from about eight to five. This is causing ICE to drop off even more families at the Greyhound station.
Since Dec. 21 2018, ICE says more than 14,500 migrant families have been released in the Valley. Ninety percent of them are from Guatemala and only 10 percent of them are actually seeking asylum.
“So if we go back about 18 months ago, maybe we were processing about 50 to 75 family units a day, now we’re up to about 300 a day,” said Henry Lucero, ICE Field Office Director in Phoenix.
Schwartz says she’s also planning a meeting with Phoenix officials to find resources so migrants aren’t stranded or wandering at bus stations.
For now, she’s asking for donations through a GoFundMe page.