Social Issues

World events create new challenges for migrant shelters in Arizona

By Maria Leon

Phoenix, Feb 7 (EFE).- Migrants shelters in Arizona find themselves having to provide assistance for growing numbers of asylum-seekers from Africa, Europe and Asia as global turmoil leads more and more people to see the United States as a safe haven.

“The migrants keep coming, but the immigration has definitely changed. A few years ago, what we saw most were entire families, coming above all from Central American countries. Now we have migrants from many countries, including Russia, China and India,” the Rev. Angel Campos, pastor of Phoenix’s Monte Vista Baptist Church, told EFE.

Campos, whose church has a tradition of taking in migrants, said that one challenge thrown up by the changing face of immigration is the language barrier, as he and the volunteers who help him run the shelter know only English and Spanish.

During EFE’s visit, a truck arrived at the church carrying some 50 men, most of them from India and China. The volunteers pulled out their smart phones and use translation apps to communicate with the newcomers, who responded with gestures.

The majority of migrants received at Monte Vista entered the US through the Border Patrol’s Yuma Sector, where 80,466 people were intercepted during the last three months of 2022.

Once processed by the Border Patrol, migrants are transported to shelters in Tucson or Phoenix.

Some, however, are taken to the nation’s capital under a program started in May 2022 by Arizona’s then-governor, Republican Doug Ducey. While the Democrat who succeeded him, Katie Hobbs, criticized the program during the campaign, she has allowed it to continue.

An estimated 3,000 migrants have been bused to Washington from Yuma at a cost to Arizona taxpayers of $7 million.

In the 1980s and early ’90s, the flow of migrants into Arizona was overwhelmingly Mexican men traveling alone, many of them coming north for seasonal farm work and then returning to the Aztec nation.

With the militarization of the border in the late 1990s, moving back and forth became more difficult and Mexican men tended to bring their families with plans to remain in the US.

By the middle of the last decade, Mexicans had been overtaken by Central Americans, including large numbers of unaccompanied minors.

“In 2018 we had many Central American families,” Campos said. “In 2019 we began to see people from Venezuela, from Brazil, Cubans. And in 2020 the migration stopped, and in recent months were are seeing more people from Africa, Asia and Europe.”

Anna O’Leary, head of the Department of Mexican-American Studies at the University of Arizona, tells EFE that the evolution in the flow of migrants reflects political and economic developments at the global level.

One of the few Latin Americans currently staying at the Monte Vista shelter is a Peruvian woman who asks to be identified as “Carmen.”

“The situation in my country is very difficult. The political climate is very unstable and they are putting all of us in danger,” she says, adding that she fled because gangs were demanding she pay protection money to operate a small neighborhood shop.

EFE ml/dr

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