US agency still flying migrant families to Arizona
PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona — angry about the federal government sending from Texas to Arizona immigrants who are in the country illegally — said Friday it will rush federal supplies to a holding center in the southern part of the state that is housing migrant children.
Gov. Jan Brewer’s spokesman, Andrew Wilder, said conditions at the holding center are so dire that federal officials have asked the state to immediately ship the medical supplies to the center. In addition, Wilder said, the regional director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency was being dispatched to Arizona to help deal with the crisis.
Wilder said reports from consulates that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was stopping the program to fly migrant families to Arizona and then bus them to Phoenix were incorrect. Instead, the program that has shipped unknown thousands of adult migrants and their children to Arizona since last month shows no sign of stopping, he said.
“The adults, the adults with children, families — that continues unfettered and we have no idea where they are going,” Wilder said. “The governor’s questions remain unanswered, and she is outraged about the lack of information being provided to the state of Arizona about this program.”
In a statement Friday, Homeland Security officials said “appropriate custody determinations will be made on a case by case basis” for migrants apprehended in South Texas. The department declined to comment on the reports that the program of flying migrant families to Arizona was being halted.
Homeland Security started flying immigrants to Arizona from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas last month after the number of immigrants, including more than 48,000 children traveling on their own, overwhelmed the Border Patrol there. U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has said the immigrants were mostly families from Central America fleeing extreme poverty and violence. They were flown from Texas, released in Arizona, and told to report to an ICE office near where they were traveling within 15 days.
Brewer sent an angry letter to President Barack Obama on Monday demanding that the program of dropping off families at bus stations in Phoenix stop immediately. She called the program dangerous and unconscionable, asked for details and demanded to know why state authorities weren’t consulted or even informed.
The governor said she hadn’t received a response to her letter by Friday.
“I have reached out to Federal Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson for answers. Meanwhile, I reiterate my call on President Obama to secure our southern border and terminate this operation immediately,” Brewer said in a statement.
Brewer’s staff spent Friday in a series of calls with officials from the FEMA, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security officials.
Wilder said FEMA’s Region 9 administrator was being sent to the holding center in Nogales on Saturday to oversee efforts to deal with the hundreds of arriving children. A total of 432 unaccompanied minors detained in Texas arrived in Nogales on Friday, with 367 more expected both Saturday and Sunday, Wilder said.
The federal emergency supplies are held in Arizona warehouses, and Wilder said the state is working to send them to the holding center.
Federal authorities plan to use the Nogales facility as a way station, where the children will be vaccinated and checked medically. They will then be sent to facilities being set up in Ventura, California, San Antonio, Texas, and Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
On Friday night, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that young lawyers and paralegals are being sought for the community service program AmeriCorps to provide legal assistance in immigration proceedings to children who come to the U.S. illegally. Officials say about 100 lawyers and paralegals will be enrolled as members of AmeriCorps in a new division called “justice AmeriCorps.”
Immigration officials can immediately return Mexican immigrants to the border, but they are much more hard-pressed to deal with Central American migrants that illegally cross into the U.S. In recent months, waves of migrants from nations south of Mexico have arrived in Texas.
Wilder blamed Obama for creating the situation with his practice of not deporting children or young adults.
“They keep coming. This will not stop. The call has gone out to Central American countries, countries abroad, that if you get here the doors are open,” Wilder said. “And if President Obama would put in half the effort to securing out borders that they have put into this operation we would not be in this situation.
“This is a crisis of their own creation, and they are doing nothing to end it.”
Associated Press writer Alicia A. Caldwell contributed to this report.