Tucson monastery accepts asylum seekers sooner than planned

Tucson monastery accepts asylum seekers sooner than planned

Tucson monastery accepts asylum seekers sooner than planned

In a file photo, Honduran asylum seekers enter the U.S. at San Diego's Otay Mesa port of entry, as seen from Tijuana, Mexico, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. (Credit: Moises Castillo/AP.)

The Benedictine Monastery in Tucson is welcoming asylum seekers from Central America ahead of schedule because of larger numbers of families arriving at the border and being released by immigration officials.

TUCSON, Arizona — The Benedictine Monastery in Tucson is welcoming asylum seekers from Central America ahead of schedule because of larger numbers of families arriving at the border and being released by immigration officials.

Catholic Community Services, which is running the shelter inside the monastery, received the keys on Friday, according to a report by the Arizona Daily Star. But Director of Operations Teresa Cavendish said Immigration and Customs Enforcement called organization Saturday to ask how many people it could take.

Catholic Community Services wasn’t planning to open for another two weeks.

“They had 130 who needed to be released,” said Cavendish. The Inn Project, run by the United Methodist Church, could take between 40 and 50, so she told the officials the Casa Alitas network of shelters could take the rest.

Within six hours, Cavendish said they had the monastery ready and started to receive families vetted by ICE. And it hasn’t stopped.

The owner of the Benedictine Monastery offered to let asylum seekers and migrants stay at the facility while their final destinations are arranged. Those are usually places where they have a close friend or relative who can sponsor them while their immigration cases are processed.

Developer Ross Rulney plans to build apartments around the monastery and has a few more months of rezoning hearings before construction can begin. He offered its use for housing refugees through the end of May because it was empty.

Catholic Community Services is the tenant and Rulney is not involved with the operations, nor is he charging rent or receiving any government reimbursement.

Catholic Community Services on Saturday quickly helped put together the rooms with cots and blankets, and sorted donated food and clothing in time to receive the first 57 families, mostly from Guatemala, Cavendish said.

Between Sunday and Monday, they received another 50.

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