Standing outside the Greyhound bus depot on Wednesday, May 28 at 9 p.m., a woman leans against the railing, takes a deep breath and looks across the parking lot at the I-10 traffic.
A break from the noise and activity inside, where about 20 other women and their children, more than 10 children—crying, laughing, playing and waiting for buses to come and take them to other parts of the country. I hear someone mention Florida, another Tennessee and someone else Chicago.
This woman from Honduras, is one of hundreds of women, most with children, from Central America, being dropped off at the bus station all hours by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in vans from the airport and from the U.S. Border Patrol detention off Golf Links. The same is happening in Phoenix.
Casa Mariposa volunteers helping the families say it's not a new occurrence, but the past seven months the numbers being dropped off at the bus station—without funds to purchase tickets, without food or toiletries, and without a means to call family or friends for help—has tripled.
It was noticeable this past Memorial Day weekend when more than 100 women and children arrived at the bus depot and volunteers went into action, which included a press release explaining that something unusual was occurring. Casa Mariposa, a faith-based community, works with detained immigrants and others released from detention, provide shelter and necessities.
Volunteer Laurie Melrood, helping translate, says working with those released at the bus depot has meant maintaining a good relationship with Greyhound employees and management, who've been in touch with ICE to see if the agency is willing to better coordinate drop-offs. When drop-offs have occurred in the past, Melrood say Greyhound employees call to let them know their help is needed.
Melrood says those being dropped off have been given deportation dates and ordered to check in with ICE wherever they go next, but they are not given funds or tickets. Volunteers help the women make calls to family and friends in other parts of the country to ask if they can buy tickets and meet them at the stations; those catching buses the next day are given shelter and those waiting at the station are given toiletries, food, clothing and toys for the children.
It was reported that a large number of those being dropped off were flown in from Texas—which has experienced a large volume of border crossers. ICE Texas detention is at capacity. However, the woman I talked to outside the bus depot wasn't one of them—she was apprehended by Border Patrol with her five-year-old son walking around the desert for two hours after climbing the wall near Naco.
She left her mother and father in Honduras with her second child eight months ago with the idea that she'd be able to get a job to help support them—Honduras, she says, is violent and they live in poverty. It's not an unusual immigrant story, but as she explains the details, from Honduras to Mexico City riding the top of a train with her son, and then three tries to get over the border.
Her son is crying between the waiting area and ticketing, shouting "Mama, mama." She brings him into her arms. He holds tight, leans his face into her shoulder, drying his face with her T-shirt sleeve. "God has kept us safe. God has given me strength."
The immigration experience on the other side continues—South Tucson at Southside Presbyterian Church where Daniel Neyoy Ruiz has spent more than 20 days with his son and wife in sanctuary to prevent his deportation.
The church community and his attorney, Margo Cowen, are working to put national pressure on the White House and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson through phone calls, emails, faxes and a petition on Groundswell that went from a little more than 100 to more than a 1,000 signatures in less than a week—in an effort to stay Neyoy Ruiz's deportation.
Supporters say Neyoy Ruiz fits the category of individuals the administration has said should not be deported because of adverse family and community effects—his deportation would separate him from his wife and teenage son.
In a May 27 letter Cowen sent to Secretary Johnson on Neyoy Ruiz's request for administrative closure, she wrote "Today ... cases exactly like that of Mr. Neyoy are regularly being administratively closed by the Immigration Court ...
On May 13 Daniel Neyoy and his family sought the protection of sanctuary at the Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Arizona, birthplace of the Sanctuary Movement of the early 1980s where safe haven was provided to thousands of Central Americans fleeing the unspeakable atrocities of war. Daniel and his family remain in sanctuary at Southside...essentially waiting for our government to do the right thing."