Pima County approves use of juvenile detention center to provide temporary housing for migrants

New home for migrants

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - By a narrow 3-2 vote on Monday, July 22, the Pima County Board of Supervisors agreed to a cooperative agreement with the Catholic Community Services to provide housing to asylum seekers who are travelling through Tucson.

Most asylum seekers are in Tucson for only one to three days before heading off to another destination to be with family or sponsors.

It's estimated 20,000 have passed through Tucson in the past year.

The agreement is to use an abandoned wing of the Juvenile Detention Center on West Ajo way.

The county will renovate the center to make it appear more welcoming and friendly by taking locks off doors, adding curtains, covering all the surveillance cameras, installing artwork and furniture.

The agreement is for one year with an option for four more years if needed.

The site was selected after 25 other sites toured since April were rejected and is necessary because the Benedictine Monastery on Country Club, which has been used to house the migrants since January, will be shut down to be redeveloped.

CCS must be out by Aug. 6.

There has been opposition to the site because it is part of a detention center.

“No piece of art, no posters, no coat of paint, no rug on the floor can mask any facility designed for the detention of people, no matter how warm the welcome is,” said Billie Fidlin of the United Methodist Church.

In passing the agreement, the county said it hoped the site would be temporary until a better, more acceptable site can be found.

Supporters said it became a race against the clock and this is the best alternative for the time being.

"I hope this isn't a final thing," said Board Chair Richard Elias. "It's something we still need to work on together."

Another objection is the cost. The county has made application for three grants totaling $2.5 million, but those funds are not guaranteed.

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