Tucson to gather aid for immigrant children

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Officials and community leaders in Tucson are collecting donations for immigrant women and children from Central America, the Arizona Daily Star reported Saturday.

Local and federal officials, including U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, met Friday to discuss how to gather and distribute humanitarian aid to migrants in Tucson as well as in Nogales.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has reportedly been leaving several hundred immigrants at a Tucson Greyhound station over the past three weeks.

"About 80 women and their children a day continue being dropped off (at the Greyhound bus station), and Casa Mariposa provides shelter for some families and temporary housing, but they are overwhelmed now," said Bishop Gerald Kicanas of a volunteer group.

According to officials, most of them are Central Americans and Mexicans who were apprehended in south Texas.

Councilwoman Regina Romero says the city is seeking which emergency shelters can take in women and children.

Kicanas, who serves the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, said some immigrants get money for bus tickets from relatives and are able to leave. Others need food, a place to stay and money, he said. A local Catholic charity group has started soliciting donations of clothes, socks, hygiene products, bottled water, formula, protein bars and other miscellaneous items.

The bishop said Friday's meeting also touched on how Tucson volunteers could assist children currently housed in a converted warehouse in Nogales. The community is considering a shelter for children in there, Kicanas said.

He is even hoping to celebrate Mass on Sunday with youths there.

Arizona politicians increased the pressure on the Obama administration this week over immigration policies. Hundreds of immigrant children caught crossing the border illegally are being sent to Nogales. Attorney General Tom Horne threatened legal action Thursday against the government. Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake demanded that Customs and Border Protection allow reporters into the Nogales facility. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has also been highly critical of the policy and demanded that the government stop sending children to the state.

Federal officials have said the children are being treated humanely and even kids don't get a free pass after being caught at the border.

"I have been watching them (Border Patrol agents) do absolutely heroic efforts," Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske at a news conference Thursday. "Not only rescuing children but taking care of them, way beyond some of the skill sets. They are doing everything from making formula to brining in their own children's clothing to taking care of these kids in a multitude of ways."


Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.azstarnet.com

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