Busloads of migrants are being dropped off at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport daily
PHOENIX - Among the travelers heading home for the holidays at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport are people escaping violence, poverty and persecution.
Now, they're catching a new flight to possibly start a new life.
The number of people illegally crossing the southern border into Arizona continues to grow, and many of them are being bused daily to the Phoenix airport, where they are then sent to destinations across the country.
Airport officials say they see between 200 and 300 migrants every day, dropped off by the busload from border officials or NGOs from Yuma.
One man who traveled from Cuba is hoping to get to Miami. When asked why he made the dangerous journey to the U.S., he said, "Like all Cubans, it's the American dream."
Another family said that once they crossed into Yuma, they were processed by immigration in under 24 hours. Next thing they knew, they were on a bus to Sky Harbor.
Southwest Airlines handed them their ticket to Tampa, but it's not until tomorrow. They're spending the night in Phoenix.
"The whole world loves America, everyone wants to come here," said a migrant.
As crossings continue to rise, these busloads will become more frequent. But some migrants are not prepared to travel when they're dropped off, leaving it up to airport employees to navigate booking flights and finding out ways to pay for them.
Many that arrived on Thursday spoke Spanish, Russian and Portuguese. Staff said it can be stressful, especially when there's a language barrier.
If migrants cannot get a flight to friends of family, organizations like the International Rescue Committee can pick them up and provide resources.
The IRC says they have just days to find a U.S. based sponsor and family member who can support them while their asylum case is being considered.
For now, those released will now join a backlog of asylum cases in immigration courts, where wait times are just under five years.
The IRC released the following statement:
When asylum seekers arrive in Phoenix, the IRC assists them in coordinating their travel to join their U.S. based family. If Sky Harbor staff identifies any asylum seekers who have become stranded due to flight cancellations, etc, the IRC sends a van to pick them up and offers overnight shelter, as well as additional services or support.
These are people from all over the world escaping violence, poverty, and persecution. They have sacrificed everything for the hope of a better future. At the Welcome Center asylum seekers are provided with emergency services including safe spaces for sleeping, access to hot showers, clean clothing, warm meals, re-connection with their families, legal orientation, children's programming, and transportation assistance. They have just days to join a U.S.-based sponsor and family member who will support them while their asylum case is considered. Families coming through the Welcome Center typically spend 24 to 48 hours there before traveling to reunite with their sponsor family in another state.
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