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City of Phoenix working to assist asylum seekers released by ICE

Posted at 7:05 PM, Jun 07, 2019

PHOENIX — Every other Friday, for the last five months, busloads of asylum seekers are dropped off at the Centro Cristiano Vino Nuevo in west Phoenix.

It is one of ten small Hispanic evangelical churches who have volunteered to accept the asylum seekers released by ICE.

Since October, the churches have helped more than 80,000 immigrants released by ICE make their way to their final destination in the U.S. while their cases make their way through immigration courts.

"We do need some more people to join hands and start seeing that together we can make a difference," Ricardo Munoz says. Munoz is a chaplain at Centro Cristiano Vino Nuevo. The church feeds, provides clothing and shelters asylum seekers.

A new group that arrived Friday is part of the record 132,000 asylum seekers taken into custody along the southwest border in May alone.

"It really is overwhelming because there is so many people and we have no resources," said Magdalena Schwartz, who oversees the network of churches. She says there are limits to what the churches can do, and worries there is not enough room to house everyone who ICE will release in the coming weeks.

"They don't have much resources," she says, "It's a problem with city because these families from Central America will be homeless in the street with children, with no food, no telephone no nothing."

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego says the city is working to avoid that sort of calamity. Spokeswoman Annie DeGraw says representatives from the city meet with the Red Cross and immigrant social service organizations Friday to devise a plan to ensure people are safe.

"We know the summer heat can be deadly, adding a complexity to a situation that is already challenging." Gallego said.

Details of what was discussed or decided upon were not released. But everyone is aware summer is here and the next wave of asylum seekers are not far behind.