SAN ANTONIO —Immigration system overwhelmed by tens of thousands of women and children from Central America.
In an emergency shelter for unaccompanied children at Lackland Air Force Base here, on a concrete pad where troops would typically muster, roughly 100 teenage boys listened attentively on Thursday to a man who was preaching to them in their native Spanish.
“We know that you are sad, that you are alone,” he said. “Don’t look at the size of the problem. Look toward the solution.” He went on: “Let’s defeat this giant!”
In Phoenix, up to four buses a day arrive at the Greyhound station, each filled to capacity with women and children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. They crossed the border in Texas, but immigration officials sent them to Phoenix because the Texas facilities were overcrowded.
Since Memorial Day weekend, about 1,000 women and children have been flown to Tucson from Texas, then driven by bus to Phoenix and dumped unceremoniously, weary and hungry, left to find their families scattered around the nation. Some minors will be housed at a naval base in California, and immigration officials are finding extra aircraft. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been ordered to coordinate efforts to
Crews of local volunteers have been greeting the migrants at the Phoenix bus station, indignant that immigration authorities are dropping them off with little more than bottles of water, apples and potato chips.
“This is cruel,” said Jorge Mendez, a volunteer at the Phoenix Restoration Project, a nonprofit group that helps immigrants settle. “I understand that if they stayed in Texas, they could have been deported. But the first thing they say when they get off the bus is they are hungry.”
These scenes are not only enraging local groups but also causing alarm among Border Patrol officials, who worry that American policy toward these migrants is a direct cause of their increased numbers. White House officials have said that criminal violence and ailing economies in Central America, not American border security, are the primary factors driving the wave.
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