Arizona is scrambling to cope with over 1,000 children caught crossing the border illegally in Texas. As outrage mounts, Homeland Security is sending mattresses and portable toilets. But even after release, the migrants’ woes are far from over.
In what appears to be a serious lack of communication on the part
of the US federal government, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer
expressed outrage after she learned Friday that 432 unaccompanied
illegal children – caught while attempting to cross the US border
into Texas – were transported to a holding facility in Nogales.
"I am disturbed and outraged that President Obama's administration continues to implement this dangerous and inhumane policy," Brewer said in a written statement.
"Not only does the federal government have no plan to stop this disgraceful policy, it also has no plan to deal with the endless waves of illegal aliens once they are released here."
Another 700 children were scheduled to be transported from Texas to the Arizona facility over the weekend. Following their brief holdover, the detainees – many of them women, children and unaccompanied juveniles – are abandoned without food and water.
Homeland Security officials defended their actions, saying the families were transported to Nogales from Texas because the Border Patrol did not have the necessary resources to process the wave of illegal immigrants crossing into the US from Central America.
Last month, the Border Patrol was overwhelmed by a surge of undocumented immigrants crossing the border illegally in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, including more than 48,000 children traveling on their own, the AP reported.
Jimena Díaz, consul general of Guatemala in Phoenix, visited the
center on Friday and said there were some 250 children from
Guatemala, with the rest coming from El Salvador and Honduras,
the Arizona Daily Star reported Saturday.
Diaz told the newspaper that the children – mostly between the ages of 15 and 17 – are being kept in separate groups, divided by age and gender. Teenage mothers with their children are also being held separately, he said.
The Obama administration plans to use the facility in Nogales as a “way station,” where, following vaccinations and medical check-ups, the children will be flown to facilities being set up in various cities, including Ventura, Calif., Fort Sill, Okla., and San Antonio, the AP reported.
A Homeland Security official told The Associated Press that about 2,000 mattresses have been ordered for the makeshift holding center – a warehouse that has not been used to shelter people in years. Meanwhile, portable toilets and showers were delivered Saturday to the facility.
Earlier this week, Governor Brewer, who said she only found out
about the program through media reports, published the text of a letter she wrote to President
Obama, warning him of the humanitarian risk involved in such
"I remind you that the daytime temperatures in Arizona during this time of year are regularly more than 100 degrees," she wrote. "Consequently, this federal operation seems to place expediency over basic humanitarian concerns."
Saying that Arizona’s law enforcement agencies, health care providers and nonprofit organizations are “stretched to the breaking point” attempting to handle the influx, Brewer blamed the failure on a “broken immigration system.”
“Our nation and the State of Arizona face significant challenges stemming from your administration’s refusal to carry out its responsibility to secure our country’s southern border,” she wrote. "This unwarranted operation is another disturbing example of a deliberate failure to enforce border security policies and repair a broken immigration system."
Previously, illegal aliens from Central America were held in detention facilities before being returned to their native countries. Homeland Security officials say the new illegal arrivals being released will remain under supervision and are still subject to deportation.
Immigrant families were flown from Texas, released in Arizona, and told to report to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office near where they were traveling within 15 days.
However, it was never explained how the government expects to track thousands of undocumented migrants, or how much it would cost taxpayers to carry out such an ambitious task.
Meanwhile, something of a humanitarian crisis is brewing at the warehouses where the new arrivals are being held until their release.
Gov. Brewer's spokesman, Andrew Wilder, said Friday that conditions at the facilities are so dire that federal officials have asked the state to send medical supplies to the facility in Nogales.
At the way station, private service providers are being contracted to supply meals, according to US Customs and Border Protection officials. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will provide “counseling services and recreational activities.”
The Homeland Security official told AP that the number of children at the warehouse was expected to double to around 1,400. The warehouse has a capacity of about 1,500, the official said.
ICE has said the illegal migrants were mostly families from Central America escaping extreme poverty and violence in their countries.