Families now surpass singles crossing the border into the US

Published: Oct. 30, 2023 at 10:05 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) -The fact that more people are crossing the border in the Tucson sector can be explained. The number of families crossing into the US, families of four, five, or six, is now surpassing singles.

“Two or three months ago, it was predominately singles that were coming,” said Teresa Cavendish, the COO of Casa Alitas, which now welcomes up to 1,500 migrants a day. “Now 77% of the people coming to us are families.”

The numbers bear that out. According to the border patrol’s statistics, in September, in the Tucson sector alone, there were fewer than 20,000 single adults. Still, more than 28,000 were what border patrol calls FMUA’s, or family unit aliens.

In the past, most of those arrivals were from Central America but now, they are from all over the world.

Ecuador and Venezuela have greatly contributed to the family numbers as unrest unfolds there.

“It could be a desperate situation in their home countries that are causing the families to take this time, this risk to move,” Cavendish said. “It’s also in terms of a time of year.”

For families making the trek with small children, this is the best time of year, not the grueling heat of summer or the cold of January. But the number of families and the quick transition from singles poses a problem for housing. Families may need to shelter longer. “The funds that they need to fly a family of five or seven, or something like that across the country” (may be more difficult to come for sponsors or relatives, so we have to give them a little bit more time to make that possible,” she said.

Longer stays mean fewer places to house the migrants, most of whom are in Tucson for a day or two at the most.

At the Benedictine Monastery on Campbell in 2019, as many as 300 migrants might be released by U.S. Border Patrol and Customs on a five day.

But now that seems almost quaint to the 1,500 who arrive daily now and are sheltered in Casa Alitas’ two congregant shelters and several hotels.

“We have enough hotel spaces, enough congregant spaces and enough transportation that we should be okay through the next several months,” she said.

As long as the federal money continues to flow through Tucson, Casa Alitas, the city and county should be able to handle the increased flow.

But what’s causing so many families to journey so far? One answer. “I was talking to a family that arrived last week, their oldest son, a family of five, and their oldest son had been disappeared by the organized crime group in their community and they’ve been trying to search for him and figure out what happened to him to have a body to bury,” said Joanna Williams, the Director of the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales.

When the group showed up at their front door and told them to stop searching, like so many other families, they left before their other children met the same fate.

“When so many families are trying to stay in their homes and find justice but are not able to, it probably explains why we’re seeing more families make it up to the order,” Williams said.

A cycle repeated over and over.

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