TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - In a matter of two days, a rec center, turned migrant shelter, has tripled in size. Since opening their doors Wednesday, April 17 they’ve gone from 40 to 120 by Thursday night, April 18.
Andy Squire with the City of Tucson said on Sunday night, April 14 Catholic Community Services and immigration officials called Tucson officials including law enforcement and the mayor, letting them know they could not accept any more migrants.
Since the shelters reached their max capacity, migrants would then be dropped off at Greyhound stations, which can turn into a public safety issue.
“Putting 100 people, who are from a different country, who have no idea where they are or what is happening could really create a lot of problems.” said Squire.
These migrants are not only being released from Nogales. Squire said they are seeing some come from El Paso, Ajo, and even San Diego. A majority of the migrants here have traveled from Guatemala.
Often only coming with the clothes on their backs and little to no food in their stomachs. It has led to sickness in other shelters, like the Benedictine Monastery who saw a few cases of chickenpox in the past month.
But Andy Squire with the city of Tucson says thankfully they’ve been in the clear.
"This time we've seen the families come in there are no health issues. People seem very healthy."
Squire said they are also able to get them the care they need if they do become sick.
All the food is being donated by other faith groups, as well as the clothes and toys for the children.
The families will only spend a few days under this roof. In the meantime they are working with Catholic Community Services to book bus tickets to meet up with family members or their sponsors here in the U.S. while they await their court date.
Squire knows this rec center is not a permanent fix but for now it’s not only helping these families, but the Tucson community helping the migrants as well.
"The reality is that they're here. And we need to be able to assist the faith community and the non-profits that have been working so diligently to help them." said Squire.
Right now the shelter only has plans to be open through the weekend. Squire said they will re-evaluate then and see if they need to extend.
Squire said that no services are being reduced at the rec center and it’s being utilized at full capacity. The only extra resources they've had to use is a few additional staff members to stay overnight.
He said he has heard nothing but a positive response from those who use the facility and some members of the community. They have received numerous donations in the form of food and clothes.
(Note: Per request of the City of Tucson, KOLD is not releasing the location of this recreation center.)