In what the organizer promises will be the first of many, a quiet protest over the sheltering of migrants at the Holiday Inn Express in Ahwatukee drew about 40 people last Wednesday.
Accountant and Ahwatukee resident Patricia Porter said another demonstration will begin at 4:30 p.m. today, April 21, at the intersection of 48th Street and Chandler Boulevard and that they will continue at least until federal, state or city officials meet with them to address their concerns.
“We want answers,” Porter said. "We want to know what the hell is going on. We want to know what the plan is. What is the arrangement?”
Information has been scant about how the Holiday Inn at 51st Street and Chandler Boulevard fits into an $86.9 million program that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has with a Texas nonprofit called Endeavors, aka Family Endeavors.
Endeavors got the contract to provide 1,239 shelter beds for migrant families in various locales in Texas and Arizona. The contract calls for "emergency temporary shelter and basic living needs” through September, according to ICE.
Stressing “the border is not open and individuals continue to be expelled under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s public health authority,” ICE in a statement two weeks ago said:
“Families that come into ICE custody will be housed in a manner consistent with legal requirements for the safety and well-being of children and their parents or guardians. Custody is intended to be short term, generally less than 72 hours, to allow for immigration enforcement processing and establishing appropriate terms and conditions of release while their immigration proceedings continue. All families will be tested for COVID-19 and receive a health assessment.”
Because the families immediately turned themselves into border authorities seeking asylum and did not sneak across, the U.S. is bound by international law and the federal Refugee Act of 1980 to place them in either immigration court removal proceedings, where they will have a future opportunity to make their case before an administrative judge, or in expedited removal proceedings, which allow border agents to deport them without a hearing.
Responding to an AFN inquiry, U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly’s office said the senator “and his staff are in regular touch with mayors to offer support and are working with local leaders and partners to ensure that the response at the border does not fall on the shoulders of Arizona communities.
“Sen. Kelly will keep urging DHS to provide the communication and resources necessary for a humanitarian response that prioritizes safety and public health.”
On March 25 – three days after Kelly pressed President Biden about the strain on resources Arizona border communities were facing from the surge of migrants at the border – Kelly publicly decried an incident in which Border Patrol agents dropped off migrants in the middle of Gila Bend.
“What happened in Gila Bend is unacceptable,” Kelly said at the time on Fox10 News. “This is the federal government’s responsibility, not the responsibility of communities in Arizona.”
ICE again last week declined to elaborate on the specific number of migrants housed at the Holiday Inn Express, the duration of their stay, whether any other hotels in or around Ahwatukee are under contract with Family Endeavors, whether adults have been vetted for criminal backgrounds, whether they are under any restriction to stay on hotel premises and what exactly happens when their stay is over.
Those and other questions brought out the 40 demonstrators, who hailed from various parts of the Valley and included a broad age range of participants.
Holding signs with statements such as “Biden=Cartel,” “Ducey, What’s the Plan?” and “Closed borders Save Children,” the demonstrators received high fives and honking horns from some passing motorists. Eventually a lone "Black Lives Matter" demonstrator showed up on another corner.
Some wore shirts advocating gun rights or the resumption of the border wall construction.
One family in the crowd circulated petitions calling for the recall of Gov. Doug Ducey, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, state education chief Kathy Hoffman and Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.
Porter said she was pleased with the turnout and the peaceful conduct of the participants.
And she said she basically organized another for today because they wanted to gather again.
“This is not a racist thing,” she said. “This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. This is a safety issue.”
“Honestly, I’m not a political person,” said Porter, who described herself as a Mexican-American. “I’m a mom who has been in the area for about 30 years and I’m just concerned about all of this illegal activity, human smuggling going on and it’s happening literally in our backyard.”
Explaining that her great grandparents “came here from Mexico legally” and that many Mexican Americans are angered by what’s going on at the border and sheltering programs like Endeavor’s, Porter said, “It’s a slap in the face to the rest of us who plowed through, worked hard got an education, paid our bills, paid our taxes for them to come over here and cut in line, so to speak.”
Meanwhile, ICE and the Arizona State Department of Public Safety traded conflicting views of an incident that occurred at 6 a.m. last Friday on I-10 near the Ray Road Exit when troopers stopped a van carrying 17 suspected illegal border crossers.
DPS said in an official statement that troopers “requested assistance from Immigration Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Border Patrol to take custody of the undocumented aliens, both agencies declined the request."
The statement continued:
“Absent response from the agencies with jurisdiction on immigration violations, the state trooper issued the appropriate citations for the traffic violations, impounded the vehicle and was forced to release the subjects.”
ICE said it could not arrive as quickly as it could and by the time agents got there, the 17 individuals were gone.
It’s unknown where they went or what happened to them.