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Updated Jun 6, 2014 - 12:05 pm

Consulates not told of immigrant drop-offs in Arizona

Floridalma Bineda Portillo, of Guatemala, and her sons, wait at the at the Greyhound bus terminal, Thursday, May 29, 2014 in Phoenix. About 400 mostly Central American women and children caught crossing from Mexico into south Texas were flown to Arizona this weekend after border agents there ran out of space and resources. Officials then dropped hundreds of them off at Phoenix and Tucson Greyhound stations, overwhelming the stations and humanitarian groups who were trying to help. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

PHOENIX -- The drop-off of hundreds of illegal immigrants at the Greyhound Bus station in Phoenix in recent weeks came as a complete surprise to the leaders of two Central American consulates in the Valley.

"I learned immigrants from Central American were arriving in Phoenix as I was driving into work last week, listening to the radio," said Honorary Consul of Honduras Tony Banegas.

Banegas said he had to call Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to try to get more information about the people bussed into Phoenix.

"We wanted to know at least the frequency and how many folks would be coming," he said.

Along with consuls from other Central American countries, Banegas asked for a list of names of who would be arriving and from which countries. ICE did not provide the information.

"Thanks to great volunteers, we've been able to help them with food and shelter," he said.

The Phoenix Restoration Project has taken the lead in welcoming the dozens of immigrants arriving since May 30. Volunteers are even opening their own homes to house them if they cannot make arrangements in a timely manner to continue on their way elsewhere in the U.S.

The plight of these Central American immigrants fleeing their home countries is deep-rooted in the troubling conditions they try to escape from.

"People don't feel safe back home," said Maria Jimena Diaz, general consul of Guatemala in Arizona.

Almost echoing Diaz's words, Banejas describes conditions in their home countries as deteriorating.

"They're fleeing violence in their communities, some of their family members have been killed," Banegas said. "They're fleeing for their lives and asking for political asylum."

Asylum isn't guaranteed, explained Diaz.

"One of the concerns we have is what happens if immigrants are allowed to stay in the U.S. for a few months, but their cases are not accepted," she explained.

She worries deportations will cause even more hardship to immigrants already risking their lives crossing through Mexico to make it to the U.S.

Part of the decision pushing these immigrants to pick up and head north is word they are being released after capture.

"The human traffickers are selling it to immigrants in a way that says ‘If you come with a child, the United States will allow you to stay here,'" Diaz said.

Over 400 immigrants were transported from Texas to Arizona by plane to be processed by Border Patrol in Tucson. DHS has then been bussing dozens of them to bus stations in Phoenix and in Tucson.

"People I've spoken arriving at the bus stations have court dates [with ICE] in two weeks," said Banejas.

Meanwhile, growing calls for answers from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Arizona's congressional delegation remain unanswered by the White House.

While humanitarian groups continue to take center stage in providing basic necessities to illegal immigrants who continue to be dropped off in Phoenix, the consuls of Honduras and Guatemala still see no end in sight to the plight of migrants leaving their home countries for a better life. These people will likely be dropped off in El Paso, Texas for the near-future. It is unclear why that city and what could happen next.

About the Author

Martha is the traffic controller in the KTAR newsroom. Her full time role is that of Assignment and Breaking News Editor of KTAR News. She oversees daily Breaking News planning and over-the air execution, and puts together the elements that make it happen. She gathers and distributes daily news assignments to reporters and editors. She also reports on a daily basis, anchors news afternoons 1-2p and fills in as anchor occasionally during other time slots. She began working at KTAR in the winter of 2012 as Desk Editor and was promoted to oversee Assignments and Breaking News in 2014. During that time, she received two awards as a journalist. The first was the 2013 APTRA Awards, where she took home 2nd place for Best Serious Future in the "Recycled Orchestra." The second was a 2014 Edward R. Murrow Award for her collaboration in KTAR's Voice for a Better Arizona Series: Immigration - seeking solutions. In her piece, Martha profiled two Arizona sisters looking for the DREAM. Martha was born in Mazatlan, Mexico. She moved to Arizona in 1996 with her parents and younger sister and has lived here since. She attended Barry Goldwater High School in Phoenix and graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University in Tempe. Prior to working at KTAR news she worked in news and production at Univision Arizona in Phoenix. She also supervised the marketing, catering and public relations department at Hotel Araiza, 5-star hotel in Mexicali, Mexico. She has also been a personal trainer and aerobics instructor. When she isn't in the newsroom or behind the microphone Martha is an avid gym-goer and marathoner. She trains for two races a year and enjoys taking group exercise classes, such as kickboxing, indoor cycling and weight lifting. Martha is married and lives in Surprise, AZ with 2 dogs, Tasha and Elsa, and a cat, Sammy.


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