(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
PHOENIX — More help is being offered to migrants released by immigration officials in Arizona.
This time, a local group connected with churches and various religious organizations is lending a hand. The newly-created Corazón Arizona has volunteers picking up migrants released at border towns.
“It’s who we are as people of faith, it’s how we welcome and love our neighbor,” Alicia Contreras, the group’s executive director, told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “And so this specifically supporting migrants and what’s happening in our southern border is very much in the vein of the work that we do.”
Volunteers with Corazón Arizona since starting last month have been able to provide transportation assistance to several dozen migrants.
They mostly use vans and buses borrowed from churches. Some use their own vehicles to drive from the Phoenix area to cities like Gila Bend and Ajo. They pick up migrants after they’re released by U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
They drive the migrants to the Welcome Center in Phoenix where they’re provided a place to stay, food, clothes, medical screenings and legal services.
“They are driving down and it’s been like a two-hour drive there and back,” Contreras said, referring to the volunteers. “And they’ve been happy to do so.”
Sometimes volunteers will drive migrants to the airport or to bus stations where they take off to meet with relatives in other parts of the United States.
She said her group got involved after noticing there was “a gap with transportation in the Gila Bend and Ajo areas.”
She said drop-offs of migrants often happen with short notice and sometimes it’s unknown how many will get dropped off.
“That has been challenging but we’ve been able to figure that out,” Contreras said. “Our community is willing. This is what they’re called to do. This is what their faith is asking from them.”