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Surge of migrants in South Texas overwhelms federal facilities




Women and children migrants wait outside of the Greyhound bus station in Tucson.
Women and children migrants wait outside of the Greyhound bus station in Tucson.

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A notable uptick in Central American families and unaccompanied children coming across the U.S.-Mexico border is overwhelming federal facilities in South Texas. As Jude Joffe-Block reports from the Fronteras Desk, border agents in Arizona are concerned about the safety of women and children coming through the desert.

At the Greyhound bus station in Tucson, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has dropped off about 100 migrant women and children in recent days.

One is Yesenia Flores from Honduras. She said she, her husband and her 14-year-old son were caught trying to cross through Texas illegally.

Flores said three relatives were just murdered.

“For that reason we came,” she said.

She said there were threats that her husband was going to be next.

He was sent to a detention facility in Texas. But Flores said she and her son were transferred several times and ultimately flown to Arizona, where federal agents are helping to relieve the strain on Texas.

In a statement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Tucson Sector said it is "assisting with the processing of illegal immigrants, many of whom are family units, apprehended in South Texas." 

Migrants are then transferred to ICE where that agency decides whether they should be held in a detention facility. According to ICE, those who are released must report to their nearest ICE office within 15 days.

On Monday, ICE released Flores and her son to stay with family members in Maryland. There they must attend their deportation court hearings in immigration court.

But there was a problem. Flores was released to the bus station, but did not have money for a ticket, or even food.

“Not even a cent,” Flores said.

Local immigrant rights advocates have been coming here with food and phones to help recently released migrants contact family members who can buy their bus tickets.

One advocate, Jim Steinman, said there are just too many migrants to help.

“It is just overwhelming,” Steinman said. “We can't deal with it as just a few volunteers.” 

The large number of migrants dropped here on Monday night prompted Greyhound to dispatch an extra bus.

The station closes from 12:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m., which means those waiting for morning buses would have had to wait outside for the night or find shelter in Tucson.