The emergency created by the release in Yuma of Central Americans seeking political asylum is now being felt in San Luis, Ariz., where a church reported taking in a group of immigrants temporarily on Saturday.
A group of about 60 asylum seekers in the United States were dropped off at the St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church on Saturday by U.S. immigration officers, according to Rebeca Lopez, the church secretary.
"The group arrived at almost noon, among them 30 children (and) adults and complete families," she said. "Fortunately the majority contacted family members or friends who helped them with the cost of bus or airline tickets to reach their destinations. There only remain three families that are about to leave."
She said the officers unofficially told them that the immigrants were released on Urtuzuastegui Street, in an area next to the border frequented by taxi companies.
Agent Jose Garibay, a spokesman for the Border Patrol's Yuma Sector, said he could not confirm if asylum seekers have been released in San Luis.
"We don't have sufficient space for so many people in the Yuma Sector stations," he said. "We are freeing asylum seekers in different places, not just in the city of Yuma."
Garibay said that the Yuma Sector has capacity in its facilities for 410 people, but that it processed more than 1,000 asylum seekers last week alone.
The asylum seekers, he said, were freed "in locations where it is easier for them to find means of transportation to continue in transit to their destinations."
Last week, Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls declared a state of emergency in Yuma, seeking federal funding or resources to deal with release of asylum seekers who say they are fleeing political and gang violence and poverty in Central America.
Besides shelter in the San Luis church, the immigrants received food, backpacks and personal toiletry items provided by church members and others in the community, Lopez said.
Lopez said immigration officers said more of the asylum seekers will be released in San Luis and that the church is preparing for their arrival.
"We have always assisted people in need with food, clothing and other types of help, but never a group of this size," she said. "Thanks to God, the community has responded to be able to help them."
Anyone wishing to provide food or other items to the church to help the immigrants can call 928-627-8011 or visit the church's Facebook page.