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Migrant children traveling alone strain makeshift Ariz. shelter

PHOENIX — Immigration officials overwhelmed by a flood of women and children from Central America who illegally crossed the border from Mexico are moving hundreds of unaccompanied boys and girls this weekend to a makeshift detention center in Nogales, Ariz.

The move is the latest effort by the Obama administration to cope with the tens of thousands of women and children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras who it says have fled violence and poverty in their countries and have streamed into Texas in recent months.

Governor Jan Brewer has criticized President Obama for releasing some of these migrants at a bus station in Phoenix with instructions to go to immigration centers. She said federal officials had told her office this will continue for the foreseeable future.


Since Memorial Day, federal immigration officials have flown hundreds of women and children to Tucson, where they were given medical and other tests.

They were then sent by bus to Phoenix and left at the Greyhound station to find their relatives around the nation. They were told to report to an immigration center within 15 days of reaching their destination, officials said.

Immigration advocates have criticized the federal government for stranding the women and children in extreme heat with no money or food. Volunteers have stepped in to help them reach their families.

The government may continue to drop off women and children in Phoenix, but it has also opened a facility in Nogales to temporarily house children traveling alone before they are sent to other holding centers. Brewer said that 432 children were sent to Arizona on Friday and that an additional 734 were expected to arrive during the weekend.

“I am disturbed and outraged that President Obama’s administration continues to implement this dangerous and inhumane policy, meanwhile neglecting to answer crucial questions our citizens demand and deserve,” the governor, a Republican, said Friday.


Arizona officials have sent federal supplies to Nogales because the shelter there was running out of essential materials.

Children have been sleeping on plastic cots, and portable toilets and showers have been taken to the holding center.

The shelter in Nogales can hold about 1,500 people, a Department of Homeland Security official said.

The children will be vaccinated and given a medical checkup, then sent to shelters at military facilities in Oxnard, Calif.; San Antonio; and Fort Sill, Okla.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has only one facility for children, in Pennsylvania.

Since October, more than 47,000 children traveling without parents have been caught trying to cross the Southwest border, a 92 percent increase over the similar period a year earlier.

Federal officials predict that at least 60,000 minors will try to cross into the United States without their parents this fiscal year.