While reports are that the number of unaccompanied minors who are arriving in the Nogales, Arizona detention center are decreasing, that’s not at all the case for the number of women and children who are being dropped off at the Tucson Greyhound station every day. That human tragedy continues right on our doorstep.
The families being dropped at Greyhound are being ministered to by volunteers who simply want to touch these troubled lives with the compassion the residents of Tucson are known for. The volunteers of Project Mariposa come from all walks of life, all ethnicities, and all ages. It’s gratifying to be working with this group to touch and offer some healing to the broken spirits of the women and children we see each day.
Guatemala is still the largest source of the families we’re seeing. While over 80% of the people being dropped at Greyhound are from there, we’ve also seen Hondurans and Salvadorans. The stories we hear are consistent. These women are in fear of life and limb, both for themselves, and for their children. In their home countries they have suffered domestic violence, abandonment and abuse. The children are subjected to gang threats up to and including dismemberment and death. The young girls are raped and otherwise physically abused. These are the conditions from which the mothers we see at Greyhound are fleeing. Any parent would do the same.
When I hear our politicians suggest that the solution is to simply ‘send them back,’ my question is ‘send them back to what?’ We know from first-hand accounts that sending these women and children back to their home countries is little more than a death sentence. That has not been our response to other groups who arrived here seeking refugee status. Neither should it be for this group.
Certainly the Central American leadership bears an obligation to do their part in taking care of these families. When they arrive in Tucson they have been processed through our Immigration and Customs Enforcement system and are being allowed to travel to next of kin and await their deportation hearings. Up until recently, the Guatemalan consulates office has employed a single individual to assist with the Project Mariposa work. It is shameful that the consulate’s office has stopped paying their own representative to work with these families. The message that sends is “America, it’s your problem.” That is an act of abandonment of their own people.
And neither the Honduran nor the Salvadoran consulate offices have offered any relocation or transition assistance to their own people once they arrive in Tucson. Their message is that the Project Mariposa volunteers can carry that burden. That too is shameful.
I have stated in the media that we will continue to do what we can with the resources we have to assist these women and their children through to their next destination. In doing so we won’t solve the border crisis, nor will we solve the economic development issues that exist in Central America. What we will do is to show the Tucson face of compassion to those who arrive here after having gone through personal trials that we can only imagine. But for them, it’s not imaginary. It’s real. And politicians from both north and south of the border appear willing to simply allow the Project Mariposa volunteers to carry the burden of touching these lives.
We will continue to do that. You can help by donating food, blankets or travel items. If you’re so inclined, please call us at the Ward 6 office at 791.4601 and we’ll be happy to get you involved.
Tucson City Council, Ward 6