MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Churches across the Valley say they’re taking in migrant families on a daily basis. Two unmarked buses pulled up to New Hope Church near Southern Avenue and Mesa Driver in Mesa on Tuesday night to drop off about 100 individuals.
Pastor Magdalena Schwartz said they were families, adults with children. She said most of them were from Central America and seeking asylum. Schwartz is part of a network of faith groups that say they are taking in 100 to 150 migrants daily.
“Because the children, they are innocent, they’re hungry, they’re cold, they’re scared,” said Schwartz. “We still can be lovely people. We still can have mercy. We still can open our arms and say to anybody, ‘You are welcome.’”
Because of a backlog in asylum applications, immigration attorney Ruben Reyes says the families will likely wait years before a judge determines whether to grant them asylum.
Reyes is the elected director for the board of American Immigration Lawyers Association. He says asylum cases can drag on because of the federal government’s lack of resources.
“There are limited immigration judges. There is limited time,” says Reyes. “If you can’t run through all your evidence in two hours, you’re going to have to continue the matter.”
Reyes says migrants can offer a number of justifications for asylum.
“Economic refugees generally do not qualify,” says Reyes. “However, if you delve a little deeper into why they’re here, the persecution by gangs, the lawlessness, the country’s inability to police its own borders and within its own borders, can actually rise to the level of asylum.”
Reyes says even domestic violence can constitute asylum if someone’s home country does not have protections for women. There have been failed attempts, Reyes says, to restrict what situations warrant asylum.
Asylum is supposed to begin at a port of entry. While there is a process for applying for asylum from someone’s home country, Reyes says, for some, it’s not safe.
“Not everybody has the benefit or the freedom to do so in the sense that they are in immediate danger,” says Reyes.